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City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
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City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
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Jay Leno starts up show at 10 p.m. on NBC

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Thank you, Kanye West.

The rap star who endured a day-long public beating after his stage invasion during Taylor Swift’s VMA acceptance speech provided Jay Leno the hour’s only genuine emotion and drama on the entertainer’s first 10 p.m. show on NBC tonight.

Leno effectively lucked out. Kanye was already scheduled to do a song with Rihanna and Jay-Z. And he didn’t back out despite the maelstrom of controversy – much to Leno’s relief, for sure.

When Leno asked Kanye what his late mom would have said to him about what he had one, Kanye sat speechless for several rivetingly uncomfortable seconds. He massaged his forehead and grimaced. The audience was eerily silent. Leno had to grope for something to say.

“Would she be disappointed?” Leno said gently. “Would she give you a lecture?”

West didn’t quite answer that but looked deeply and genuinely chagrined. “Yah. You know obviously. I deal with hurt. And you know – so many celebrities never take time off. I never took time off. Music after music. Tour after tour… I caused someone else’s hurt… I don’t try to justify it cos I was in the wrong. I need to take some time off and analyze about how I’m going to make it through life.”

Great TV.

The rest of the hour wasn’t quite so great.

Though Leno has said he wants the show not to be an imitation of “The Tonight Show,” many elements remain the same. He still shakes hands with the front rows of the crowd at the start of the show. Kevin Eubanks and his band remain. Leno’s monologue and “Headlines” are the same.

What’s different? The theme song has more of a rock tinge. The set is even bigger than the “Tonight Show.”. The number “10″ (as in 10 p.m.?) is a bulls eye on the center of the stage.

Given how long he’s been off, Leno’s monologue was surprisingly flat. Another bit, in which he parodied a “Cheaters” episode and found his musical leader Kevin Eubanks hanging with a lookalike Jay Leno, just died on the vine. His fake interview with Obama was predictable and almost amusing.

Leno has been criticized for not showcasing fresh young comics. So he brought Dan Finnerty in to do a song at a car wash about the car wash experience. It’s really professionally done but also really not that funny.

The first truly great laugh for me, at least, was 25 minutes in when Jerry Seinfeld showed up as the first celebrity guest. “You know in the ’90s when we quit the show,” Jerry said. “we actually left!”

Leno moved “Headlines” to the end of the hour, rather than dumping the musical act there like he did on “The Tonight Show” as people were falling asleep. Good thing about “Headlines”: it always generates a few guaranteed chuckles.

Given how low expectations are for great humor on any Leno-led show, that’s about all you’ll likely get.

20 comments Add your comment

NativeAtlantan

September 15th, 2009
8:07 am

I watched the first half hour and was pretty disappointed. The monologue is always good for a few laughs. The car wash scene was funny for the first 60 seconds, but after several minutes had me reaching for the remote at its stupidity. Same thing with the Cheaters bit. Seinfeld was Seinfeld – you either love him or don’t. All in all, I feel like I have a fall back show at 10pm now, but not must-see TV.

w sellers

September 15th, 2009
8:16 am

leno show was just awful; should be cancelled immedaitely

Ann

September 15th, 2009
8:41 am

Well – he did publicly apologized, but he needs to do it publicly to her and he’s still a jerk for doing it in the first place. Can you image the ridicule he would give someone if they did that to him? Jay has the best possible question – what would your mother think? He knew right then and there he was soooo wrong….

Ralph

September 15th, 2009
8:58 am

The Jay Leno Show was The Tonight Show all over again, just moved to 10pm. Once you realize that Kanye’s actions were all part of his plan to get more attention on himself, to promote his “music” because he had been panned by MTV but needed somehow to promote his appearance on The Jay Leno Show the next night with Jay-Z and Rihanna, then you begin to understand why he did what he did. His excuse on Leno was lame at best and Leno let him off the hook. Then Kanye goes and does his act with Jay-Z and Rihanna like nothing has happened. He got what he wanted…A lot of press in a short amount of time. I hope he gets what he deserves. Please, Kanye is a dirt bag and always will be.

East, Not West

September 15th, 2009
8:59 am

I like Jay – I wouldn’t watch because that jerk Kanye was on. I’ll tune in when there’s a guest I care about, not some self-serving no-talent my-career-is-tanking-so-I-better-get-some-publicity a-whole.

Stan

September 15th, 2009
9:02 am

I usually go to sleep before the Tonight show and Letterman, so I’m glad to have this as an option. It did seem a little “forced” but I figure once they do it for a few days they should get a better flow to it.

Rob

September 15th, 2009
9:19 am

I have always been a fan of Jay Leno, but I was really disappointed in the “new” Leno show. The Cheaters skit was about the lamest thing that I have seen, the car wash bit should have been 90 seconds instead of what seemed like 90 minutes, and Kanye should have been canceled – what he did to Taylor Swift was deplorable! I watched out of curiosity – but when CBS finally caught up time wise, I switched to a threepete of CSI, the local news, and Letterman!

BoricuaHawkFan

September 15th, 2009
9:20 am

I would’ve loved to see Kanye try that on a guy. He’s not just a wuss for doing what he did, he is an even bigger wuss for doing it to someone that he could bully. I hope his fan-base takes a stand and makes him pay where it hurts. $$$

Father of 5

September 15th, 2009
9:36 am

What a pathetic interview with Kanye. Out of a thousand questions he could have asked (How trashed were you? What were you thinking? Do you think the bad night began with your decision to cart around a hard liquor bottle?), the only probing question was, “what would your mother think?” Kanye looked like he was trying to cry, but he couldn’t find the tears. Probably high on something again. Jay can be funny, but he wasn’t last night — and he’ll never approach Johnny in terms of interview skills.

As everyone else said, it was a very weak program overall. He couldn’t add another segment with Seinfeld and skip one of the overly long taped skits? We waited 3 months for this? Even the Merv Griffin setting with the lack of a desk seems uncomfortable for everyone. Awful show.

Mikel

September 15th, 2009
9:37 am

I was definitely disappointed ! lets give it sometime ,they need to go back to the drawing board and correct !.The guy in the car wash was just annoying , not funny at all.Am pretty sure by now they know it lacked imagination !!

taylor

September 15th, 2009
9:41 am

It was all done for publicity so now lets all feel sorry for con-ya

[...] Atlanta Constitution’s Rodney Ho. [...]

MWC

September 15th, 2009
10:27 am

It’s a new show…period. Give it a chance people. Jay WILL make it work. Kayne..well..stay tuned. Peace

Quicky

September 15th, 2009
10:54 am

What a terrible performance Kanye did on Leno. Who likes that crap?

jerry Timmons

September 15th, 2009
11:04 am

I thought Jay’ s show was great – he had his same style and sense of humor…..which doesn’t insult the viewer. (Conan’s DOES)

jerry

Jack S.

September 15th, 2009
11:04 am

The first night of Jay Leno’s show was a ‘real bust’. The hype and advertising that NBC has been presenting was quite well done but too bad the actual show actually ended up being a loser.

The band’s music was worse that Jay’s Tonite Show’s was. Steinfeld was a guest? Actually he attempted to take over his part of the show and did a very disrespectful job of it; too bad Jay didn’t actually do an interview with him – that would have been interesting.

The video with Obama was good for the first minute and then it just became too much and fell on it’s face.

The show would have possibly worked if they had just made it a good simile of the old Tonight Show but even that attempt by Jay and the producers ended up being very amatureish. Too bad for Jay, he has the ability to put on a good show but if that doesn’t happen soon it’s Nielson Ratings will cause it to be canceled very quickly.

Hopefully the show’s problems were a result of poor producing, and maybe some bad attempts of the writers. The show’s first week should have been a real grabber, obviously a lot of people would be tuning in to be entertained by Jay and have a good hour of interesting television and the first show should have been the best of the lot! Hopefully for Jay and NBC, a turn around happens very quickly. If not then Jay needs to run and run away very quickly; if not then he might end up being remembered for being able to do a good job of continuing the Tonight Show, but a real failure of starting a new TV show. As for NBC? Well, it just might end up being another bad mistake by their staff and employees; it’s happened before and it will happen again.

Who me ?

September 15th, 2009
11:51 am

What a boring pile of crap this show was after all the hype and expectations. Face it, NBC is on life support and if they expected this Tonight Show rehash to save their ratings…..it’s not going to happen. I did hear that a 12 year old girl in LA beat Kanya down this morning, beat the daylights out of him. But, To Kayne’s defense the 12 year old girl was foot taller than Kayne, she was five feet tall.

Coastal Cavalier

September 15th, 2009
3:04 pm

I wasn’t a fan of the musical guests before or after and realize that is an attempt to attract a younger audience. The car wash sketch was a complete bomb. I enjoyed pretty much everything else. They have to get their comfort level and routine down. I have a good feeling about the show.

Cartman

September 15th, 2009
11:22 pm

Kanye is a gay fish!

Carlos

September 18th, 2009
3:55 pm

Who here likes fishsticks?