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Not quite yet passed his prime time

by Archives September 22, 2009

Jay Leno is back. After three months of hype, the man with the massive mandible is now on prime-time. Leno is not yet passed his prime, but his 10 p.m. talk show is not quite up to snuff.
In his debut episode, Leno’s monologue was funny and current. “President Obama has invited Kanye and Taylor Swift for a root-beer summit,” he said, mocking the now infamous MTV video awards where Kanye West interrupted Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech. Leno was so current, in fact, that he had West on as a guest that same night, bringing him near tears before the end of his interview.
Leno’s other guest that night was Jerry Seinfeld, who was a rather odd pick. His sitcom is a cult classic, but, as Seinfeld said on the show, he has not done anything in 11 years and the interview was very indicative of that. The conversation seemed rehearsed and was overly nostalgic, becoming even more so once Oprah Winfrey appeared via satellite.
Leno, did try something new that night, flexing his acting muscles in a spoof of Cheaters, the show that catches philanderers in the act. In the skit, Leno confronts Kevin Eubanks (his band leader) for hanging out with a Leno impersonator, to comedic perfection.
Leno’s new show tries to incorporate more sketch comedy than the Tonight Show ever did. A car wash musical by Dan Finnerty (the perverse wedding singer from The Hangover) was hilarious and equally inappropriate; it was the perfect way to kick off Leno’s guest comedian video segment. Hamish Blake and Andy Lee’s “Ghosting” clip – where they tried to see who could walk behind someone the longest in perfect unison – was very funny. Other such performances during the first week failed to hit the same mark.
Leno also hosts two musical acts a week, bringing unlikely musicians together. This week, Jay-Z, Rihanna, and Kanye West performed together but were not as entertaining as West’s interview. On Thursday, Bruce Hornsby (whoes singing was barely audible) performed with Eric Clapton. Both musical acts this week were simply decent or borderline mediocre.
The Jay Leno Show borrows heavily from daytime and late-night talk shows. However, the show has introduced some original segments. Ten at 10 is a new segment where Jay talks to a celebrity via satellite and asks them ten questions in ten minutes. Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz were first, and quite entertaining. The interview ended with Cruise saying that having sex with him “is like flying.” Ten at 10 with Miley Cyrus on Wednesday was a damp squib.
Leno interviews on velvet chairs instead of at a desk and incorporates performances by stand-up comedians. Whatever Leno’s doing works, but it’s nothing novel.
To sum up the entire Jay Leno Show experience; we’ve seen it all before. The name “Leno” fetched a good audience in the first week but what happens when CSI: Miami returns? Or when late-night finally embraces Conan O’Brien as The Tonight Show host? Leno’s show is not a write-off because it entertains, however, a later time slot would have worked better.

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