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?