Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Jay Leno Show: How is this night different from all other 'Tonight Show's?

I'm not sure how much of a point there is to reviewing the first episode of "The Jay Leno Show." It is what it is - Leno's "Tonight Show" minus the desk and plus taped bits from guest comedians - and we've all had 17 years to decide whether we like Leno's "Tonight" or we don't.

I don't, which is why I said yesterday that I'm more interested in watching the ratings for the new(ish) show than I am in watching the show itself. But as with doing any kind of review, it's a marathon and not a sprint. I assume last night's ratings will be strong, because NBC spent so much time and money promoting Jay over the summer, because there wasn't much competition on the night (as opposed to a new "CSI: Miami" next Monday), and because Jay lucked out in having Kanye West as a musical guest the night after Kanye made a fool of himself by interrupting Taylor Swift at the VMA's. But how will the ratings be a week from now, a month from now, etc? And, more importantly, how will the ratings for the NBC affiliates' late local newscasts be?

As for Kanye, in the end I'm not sure it's going to be the masterstroke NBC hoped it would be. Yes, some people probably tuned in to watch. And, yes, the online clip of the interview is going to be the most-watched viral video of today (unless there's a new breakdancing cat video I don't know about). But this was like the opposite of Leno's legendary Hugh Grant interview that allegedly launched Jay's streak of dominance over David Letterman.

There, Jay asked the perfect question ("What the hell were you thinking?") and Grant responded with his trademark self-deprecation. For both interviewer and interviewee, it was the ideal celebrity damage control moment. Kanye (give or take an "SNL" sketch or two) doesn't do self-deprecation, and he doesn't do easy banter, and he had clearly gone into a shell after the VMA fiasco. So the interview was mostly uncomfortable, and the one memorable question that Jay did ask - invoking Kanye's dead mother to ask what she might have thought of her son's gaffe - only made things more awkward.

NBC has repeatedly defended the Leno-to-10 move by pointing to research they conducted that said viewers want more comedy at 10. (Never mind that they didn't bother to ask anyone what kind of comedy they wanted, or if they had Jay's brand in mind.) But the one moment people will talk about, and remember, from "The Jay Leno Show" debut was one of the least comic of Jay's career. It's going to get NBC some water cooler talk, and a lot of website hits, but it's not going to work as a signature "This is why Jay is awesome" clip like I think they were hoping.

Unless, that is, their goal is to turn "The Jay Leno Show" into a hybrid of Jay's "Tonight" and "Dr. Phil."

What did everybody else think?

37 comments:

Anonymous said...

I thought the show was boring, but Leno's never been my thing (not since his appearances on Letterman in the 80's anyway).

Invoking Kanye's mother seemed inappropriate.

Michael said...

He's still light years better than Letterman. I fell bad for Conan.

Sonia said...

Personally, I'm not interested in this experiment at all...seems to me like NBC just doesn't feel like they have anything else to put on their network at that time.

I have nothing against Jay Leno or his humor, but I never watched his show when it was on late night. If I'm up that late, I'm watching a west coast ball game, or something I DVR'd b/c I can't sleep.

And Kanye West should be ashamed of himself.

Sirfuller said...

I thought the "Cheaters" spoof was funny-ish. I'm glad Jay is back.

Matt said...

What makes it particularly sad is that (as observed copious times) that NBC 10 PM time slot has repeatedly changed TV in big ways for the better--"Hill Street Blues," "St. Elsewhere," "Miami Vice," "L.A. Law," "Crime Story," "Quantum Leap," "Law and Order," "I'll Fly Away," "Homicide," and "ER." In this situation, none of these would ever see air.

Nicole said...

I don't think Jay's usual audience would even watch the MTV awards so much of the Kanye interview probably went over their heads.

I think any high ratings would be due to it being a first show.

Fred App said...

I think what it proved is that comedy that isn't funny at 11:30 is even less funny at 10.

Plus, it was boring. Seriously boring.

I did like the guy singing at the car wash, though. They should give him his own show.

Anonymous said...

the only things my husband and i laughed at were jerry's "wifespeak" and Headlines....both of which Jay had nothing to do with! It made me remember how much I prefer Conan and even put Jimmy Fallon up a notch!

Bobman said...

I never thought Jay was particularly funny, but he's personable and nice which always seemed at least as important to me in a late night host. It's why I could never say who I'd choose in "Letterman vs Leno" - Leno is a nice guy who is not particularly funny, and Letterman is a world-class a-hole who is pretty funny.

It's also why Ferguson is the best late-night host - funny AND charming. WIN!

Also, since it's mentioned here - does anyone else think the VMA thing had to be at least SOMEWHAT staged?

LDP said...

It was all so terribly boring. The car wash musical number thing was excruciating.

AnnaN said...

I am of the opinion that the Kanye Kerfluffle was orchestrated to create buzz for the first night of Leno's show. Beyonce is not a very good actress and her shocked look at Kanye's words was not believable.

Our local NBC affiliate "news" station spent a LOT of time focusing on Kanye's behavior and then following immediately with "well, he can explain himself" in a few hours on Leno's new show. Go watch!

However, the stunt blew up in Kanye's face and rather than having him look like an edgy and eccentric performer, the swift public perception was: ass.

Ooops.

The Godfather said...

As a viewer who did enjoy Leno's brand of comedy on the Tonight Show, I was hoping for much more than we got last night.

Both Leno and West took a much too serious tone to address the VMA incident, the car wash sketch wasn't very funny, and, the law of diminishing returns is closing in on Headlines.

I'm guessing because they've got so much invested in it, and because it's so cheap, the show isn't going away anytime soon. But the viewers probably are.

Anonymous said...

Back in the Hill Street Blue's & St Elsewhere days, there was 66 hours of network prime time. FOX & CW bump it up to 93. Now cable networks like HBO, Showtime, TNT, USA, FX, A&E, TBS, USA, etc, all do their own dramas and comedies these days. There is still plenty of room for quality shows.

I have heard alot of people on this blog defend Bill Lawrence for bringing back According to Scrubs for its 20th season by saying he is saving his writers and crews jobs. The same arguement can be made for Jay, who has a huge crew and an army of writers. Frankly I think the arguement is crap in both instances. If they are good at their craft they will find work in Hollywood. But still if the arguement is good for one, it should work for the other.

Anonymous said...

It was just painful to watch, start to finish. No other word for it.

Rick said...

I was very much hoping the Cheaters payoff was going to be Jay confronting Conan. Sadly, no dice.

Within the first two minutes it was clear that this *was* the Tonight Show, just at a different time.

Anonymous said...

I dvr'd it for the Kanye interview, watched that and then decided to start from the beginning and see how it was. I made it through about 45 seconds of the opening monologue before giving up. Dreadful.

That guy said...

@Michael and @Sirfuller:

Not to take shots at you, but I just don't understand. It's not that I prefer a different type of humor (for instance, more dark vs slapstick), it's just that there isn't any humor with Jay. He's not funny AT ALL. There's nothing to laugh at. But different strokes, I guess.

dez said...

(unless there's a new breakdancing cat video I don't know about).

Did you see the water-loving cat video I posted last night? That is way more entertaining than Jay interviewing Kanye.

Also, if the Kanye thing was planned, they sure didn't tell Taylor Swift, who looked like someone kicked her puppy and then stole it. I don't think it was, though. Kanye really is that egotistical and selfish, it seems.

Byron Hauck said...

I agree that it doesn't look like anyone told Miss Swift, but she was in another dress when she came back out. It seems like SOMEONE on her staff was prepared.

Weck said...

The Dan Band was high-larious!

Alan Sepinwall said...

Debut ratings were huge: 17.7 million viewers, big in the young adult demos, etc. But we figured the show would open big. Let's see how big the audience remains in a few weeks and/or months, minus the rubbernecking factor, and plus original competition.

LA said...

The car wash skit was utterly unwatchable, and that Kanye interview was awkward and embarrassing.

I, too, thought the VMA thing was staged w/o Taylor Swift's knowledge. Ill-conceived and gone horribly awry, but staged.

Mark B said...

I don't think Jay's usual audience would even watch the MTV awards so much of the Kanye interview probably went over their heads.

They don't have to have watched the awards show. The incident was on the news and all over the internet. You couldn't miss it.

Mike F said...

zero interest in a 10pm late night talk show...can't imagine tivo-ing this either...but I'm sure lots of elderly people will tune in many evenings

really, nothing's changed except NBC is scaling back their operation...and we've got plenty of other cable networks providing dramas to replace it

J said...

BREAKDANCING CAT I AM COMING FOR YOU! MUCH RESPECT AND ALL BUT KANYE IS THE GREATEST VIDEO VIRAL ARTIST OF THIS GENERATION! I APOLOGIZE FOR MY RECENT FOR REAL EMOTIONAL OUTBURSTS AND TO TAYLOR SWIFT WHO I'D LIKE TO HAVE COFFEE WITH. BUT BREAKDANCING CAT? ENJOY YOUR MOMENT AND WATCH YOUR BACK!

Simon H. said...

It was the same as any other show hosted by Jay Leno, a ghastly horror of a talker thinking it's hysterically funny when it's quite the opposite, drawn down by Jay Leno's awkwardness and incredibly poor interviewing skills. Now that I know it's going to be just as bad as his previous Tonight Show, I will never have the "pleasure" of viewing it again. I feel sorry for Conan most of all, who's far superior show deserves better then being viewed as second rate to this trash.

Paul Outlaw said...

Did Jay bring Kevin & the band with him to 10 pm?

drake lelane said...

...(Taylor Swift) was in another dress when she came back out...

As a photo editor who has to look through too many photos from these events, I can tell you that there's often three dresses a female performer will wear (red carpet, performance, post-performance/press room) - five if you're Lady Gaga - so don't look to wardrobe changes to give you any cues (except that they're moving to another part of their evening).

I'm about as cynical as you get, and really the only staging I can detect was maybe security being told to give Kanye "enough rope." Kanye is essentially just doing his own ego-driven/manic version of yelling back at the movie screen. Only in his world, he can step into the movie and yell it back to the audience as well.

Perhaps some of this "Kanye planned it" wave is a subconscious reaction from folks feeling burned by the Sacha Baron Cohen/Eminem staged brouhaha.

filmcricket said...

Debut ratings were huge

I agree you can't tell what the night-to-night ratings are going to be like, but all along I've had a sinking feeling that this is going to work out for NBC. I don't think they're going to take down CSI or anything, but whether you like his humor or not (and I don't) Jay is popular. Yes, it's baffling, but so is America's fascination with reality TV and break-dancing cats. I don't see him going anywhere soon.

Anonymous said...

As an Israeli, I'm pissed off. Till now, we've had Conan at 8 PM and Jimmy Fallon at 8:45, just two days after they're on in the States. Now that Jay Leno has a new show, they're bumping Conan to 8:45, and airing Leno at 8, while Jimmy Fallon will no longer be broadcast in Israel. Too bad. With all his faults, I still like Jimmy more than I like Jay.

Hatfield said...

J (not Jay) wins. Best comment.

Bjooks said...

Anonymous wrote: "Invoking Kanye's mother seemed inappropriate."

It's what Taylor Swift's mom asked him backstage. Given the fact that Kanye's mom was the only person in the world that he respected or listened to, I'd say it's the best question Jay could have asked, regardless how uncomfortable the moment was.

But as for Jay's show itself, I'm amazed such an unfunny guy is still around. Guess it shows how bland you have to be to appeal to the largest possible demographic of old people.

rspad said...

Taylor was in another dress because she was about to perform when Beyonce called her back to the stage. Many artists do a costume change under those circumstances. Kanye's an ass. End of story. And his awkward interview with Jay didn't help his cause or Jay's.

Leno's segments were always amusing for me, but I have no interest in watching this watered down version of The Tonight Show, especially after trying to get thru last night's debut. Can we just talk about how awkward it seemed for Jay not to have a desk in front of him? He seemed so uncomfortable and unsure as to what to do with his hands. Just made it even harder for me to watch.

I'll stick with the scripted TV on other networks that I've enjoyed for far longer.

Don Draper said...

Kanye showed the world what a idiot he truly is. A no talent hack. Leno's questions were spot on to him and he as usual fumbled (like the guy on the Bills)

Leno's show was fine, if a bit awkwards at times. Ratings in most markets were thru the roof, even in cities were NBC is weak, like Atlanta & San Fran.

Anonymous said...

Not sure if this is occurring everywhere, but Conan is no longer available on Star (The Canadian E Network) at 10 PM. Is this coincidence, or were NBC afraid that Conan would provide competition for their precious Leno? Gotta love how Leno and NBC keep finding ways to stick it to Conan and his viewers.

Robin said...

I tuned in on Monday night. I used to watch Jay on the Tonight Show. He was amusing, Headlines were funny, and Letterman has just gotten boring over the years. But I discovered that what was funny as I was going to sleep after the news is NOT funny when I am wide awake. And since my preferred newscast is now on opposite Leno (WGN at 9), I'll probably only watch Jay when there's nothing else on and the news is pre-empted for basketball games.

Anonymous said...

Uh, hello ... why is Jay even bothering with that waste of talent Kanye when RHIANNA is there??

Doesn't anybody care what she has to say??