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December 17, 2014

How to Fix 'The Jay Leno Show'

by Liane Bonin, posted Oct 29th 2009 5:34PM
The Jay Leno ShowAh, memories. Remember when 18.4 million people naively tuned in to the debut of 'The Jay Leno Show,' curious to see what all the promotional fuss was about? Well, about half of those people have found something less painful to do at 10PM these days. After a little more than a month, the show is getting slammed by the critics and slapped down like a naughty dog in the ratings. Not only is it being beaten by the network competition, it couldn't even match the FX biker drama 'Sons of Anarchy' last Tuesday. Ouch.

Even though the network isn't admitting it, we kind of suspect that NBC is kicking itself for booking Leno to air not only every weekday, but reportedly every weekday for at least a year. Whether we like it or not, Leno is sticking around. So we might as well offer up our ideas on fixing this mess. It's really the least we can do.The Jay Leno ShowAh, memories. Remember when 18.4 million people naively tuned in to the debut of 'The Jay Leno Show,' curious to see what all the promotional fuss was about? Well, about half of those people have found something less painful to do at 10PM these days. After a little more than a month, the show is getting slammed by the critics and slapped down like a naughty dog in the ratings. Not only is it being beaten by the network competition, it couldn't even match the FX biker drama 'Sons of Anarchy' last Tuesday. Ouch.

Even though the network isn't admitting it, we kind of suspect that NBC is kicking itself for booking Leno to air not only every weekday, but reportedly every weekday for at least a year. Whether we like it or not, Leno is sticking around. So we might as well offer up our ideas on fixing this mess. It's really the least we can do.

Throw Out the Script: Unfortunately, Leno at 10PM isn't all that different from Leno at 11:35PM We're sure that seemed like a good idea a few months ago, but the truth is, it doesn't work. For one thing, the competition is completely different. Instead of going up against other late-night talk shows and syndicated reruns, Leno now faces off against sharp, well-written scripted dramas. More importantly, the truth is that what viewers expect during primetime is a little more exciting and engaging than what they're content to watch as they're falling asleep on the living room couch. Leno's gentle, fangless humor and by-the-book interviews get a pass when we're barely coherent, but when we're wide awake? Not so much. It's time to not only think outside of the box, but smash it.

Cut the Monologue: And about that fangless humor: We know you're a stand-up comedian, Jay, and we respect that. But even though your writers get in a few zingers here and there, they just aren't able to generate 10 minutes of zingers five days a week. Cut out everything but the very best jokes, even if that means a 30-second monologue. You need to give us a reason not to reach for the remote and remind us why we used to think you were funny. In the 1980s.

Kevin Eubanks on The Jay Leno ShowTell Kevin Eubanks to Shut Up: Watching Jay's band leader giggle and prattle on is like hanging out with the stoner kids in high school while you're stone-cold sober. It's fine for about a minute, then you want to bash your head against a wall out of sheer boredom. Paul Shaffer's high energy and sometimes snappy/sometimes goofy banter makes David Letterman look good; Kevin Eubanks sucks the energy out of Leno's show faster than an old refrigerator. I'm not saying the guy isn't nice enough, but let him play guitar and stop inflicting him on the audience.

Get a Real Sidekick: It's time Leno had someone to banter with who challenged him to bring his A-game. Right now, when we do see the comedians who might be able to give the show a jump start, they're relegated to correspondent gigs (D.L. Hughley) or their own segments (Nick Thune). Let's see Leno build a relationship with someone who's actually funny (sorry, Kevin). Yes, it's time to share the spotlight, Jay.

Martha Stewart on The Jay Leno ShowStop Kissing Celebrity Butt: OK, we know some of the other networks have banned their talent from appearing on the show, so maybe it's becoming so difficult to get stars in the interview hot seat unless Jay bends over backward to make them comfortable. But comfortable stars equals boring television. Jay's recent interview with Hilary Swank was so obsequious and earnest I felt mildly diabetic just watching it. And the "Earn Your Plug" segment just calls attention to the fact that stars are there to promote their projects, not answer real questions.

Shake Up the Interview List:
Big stars like Swank, Jamie Foxx and Gerard Butler are probably considered good "gets," but watching them plug their movies isn't exactly must-see TV at 10PM. Consider some cross-promotion with NBC's 'Today' to get quick, topical interviews with the people we're talking about, right this minute.

... And If None of That Works, Have an Affair: Hey, any publicity is good publicity, right?

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