Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Jay Leno's New Show Is An Old Shoe

I was expecting more last night. A lot more.

Jay Leno’s new show on NBC debuted last night to a lot of hype, a lot of expectations and a lot of hand wringing about the future of late night talk shows as well as the fate of primetime shows. All of this based on a man who people thought wouldn’t last a year into his stint as the replacement for Johnny Carson. Those doubts have been erased and now Jay Leno is an iconic television fixture.

But last night I was expecting something more, something different than just a Late Night Redo.

I was shocked when I tuned in that everything was basically the same. Same monologue, same interviews, same bits. The only thing that was different was the set. And by the way, did anyone catch how reminiscent Jay’s new set looks like the set from Later with Bob Costas when he was on late night?

Jay deserves the mammoth, expansive and creative set that Conan now enjoys. It looks like Leno got an Ikea afterthought. Just horrible.

The actual show was too comfortable. I didn’t expect jitters or flop sweat like Conan and Jimmy Fallon had when they debuted, but there should have been some kind of nervous excitement – something to be giddy about whether it’s the new time slot or even if it’s to show off the new set they built Jay. Oh, that’s right…no one could get mildly or feign glee over the new set.

As far as the guest for Jay’s inaugural foray into primetime, Oprah was forced and felt out of place, Jerry Seinfeld was great as always, and Kanye West really proved what an absolute douche bag he is with his lame, inarticulate apology to Taylor Swift and the debacle that was the VMA’s. I understand why Jay decided to bring him to the comfy chair, sitting down and talking a bit, but if there is one skill Jay sorely lacks, it’s how to handle a tough interview. When the giggles and fluff are flying, he’s fine. But when there needs to be some gravity to his interview, Jay turns chicken. And asking about how your late mother would feel about your behavior is just stilted and unnecessary. I would expect that out of Oprah, not Jay Leno.

Jay Leno is a talented guy, but he’s also reached a comfortable place in his career and in his new time slot. Maybe too comfortable.

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