Of course, changing a pretty moribund format back to a format that's even older isn't exactly a radical shift. But the producers are likely betting that returning to the successful Tonight formula is the way to go.
Here's the problem: people don't have the same ingrained expectations of a 10 PM talk show that they have of an 11:30 show. Instead of tuning into Leno as a reliable way to get them to sleep late at night, they're now tuning to him because nothing's on and their DVRs are empty. There are no expectations on their part.
Jay even managed to get a quick jab in to the bosses at NBC during an archery "Earn Your Plug" with Wanda Sykes. "This is NBC," he said to her. "I'm used to getting shot in the back." I've grown to respect Leno during his 10 o'clock experiment. He's a trouper doing what NBC is paying him to do, but you can tell he thinks the whole situation's about as screwed up as we do.
Even better, there were only two "10 @ 10" segments and no "Green Car Challenge" races, which allowed for more room to bring on Frank Calliendo and Sebastian Maniscalco to do stand-up routines. This is what I was expecting Leno to be doing, showcasing comedy rather than driving around a track trying not to hit Al Gore.
Arsenio Hall was featured twice this week. His first appearance was in a segment that had potential called "This Is What They Said/This Is What They Meant." I was expecting to see video clips of celebrities, politicians and the like spouting their same bullcrap, and then having Hall tell us what he thinks they really meant. Instead, it was Leno reading quotes, including historically famous ones like Julius Ceasar's "Et tu, Brute!" The gag didn't make sense anymore, and even worse the bits weren't funny.
Luckily, he came back later in the week with an on-site spot at Yankee Stadium, where he interviewed players from both teams and even set up a bet against a Yankees player and Phillies fan Kevin Eubanks involving Snuggies.
With Rachel Griffiths appearing this week, it appears that ABC's ban on their actors appearing on Leno's show may have finally been lifted. Unfortunately, she couldn't bring along a clip of Brothers & Sisters, so I guess they're still feeling a little sour. Or NBC doesn't want to promote a competing network's show too much.
Unfortunately, when we cut to The Jay Leno Show, his dancing girls (an homage to Jenna's video in 30 Rock) were better at looking good in their tight shorts than they were at dancing. Then, after Leno came out, we got to overhear a woman wanting to get something signed. "Can I leave it?"
I did enjoy the smooth transition into the show. It creates a sense of synergy on the network where you feel like all these shows are one big happy family. Except for Southland. But I guess there's always that one relative nobody wants around ... Hey, I just wrote a Jay Leno joke!
That's not to say that it doesn't have its value or historical significance. Whether it succeeds or fails, it's still a big deal that NBC abandoned scripted television at 10pm. It's kind of like when ABC threw Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? on fourteen times a week to prop up their broken schedule a decade or so ago.
For those of you still interested in how the experiment is playing out, "Leno Weekly" will be a weekly roundup of the highlights and lowlights of Leno's primetime show, including clips. For those who don't think The Jay Leno Show deserves any kind of coverage at all on TV Squad ... now you only have one article a week to ignore!
The problem with that, as I'm seeing it, is too many of the recurring segments just aren't working as well. An entire segment each night is devoted to these comedy correspondents, and eleven episodes in, they're more miss than hit.
Tonight, Owen Benjamin (The House Bunny) brought in a video of himself traipsing around LA offering to write jingles for smaller businesses. As with every other video segment they've done, it just went on and on and on. Even worse, none of the songs were funny.
The Jay Leno Show has only been on for a week, but it's already starting to fall into a familiar pattern, and that's a good thing for late night. Familiarity creates a steady audience by making it more comforting, and helps weed out what doesn't work and focus on what does.
Unfortunately, the thing that makes the late night format work is breaking Jay's show.
Just about the only thing that works with Jay's show is his monologue. The rest make him feel more out of his element than Donnie from The Big Lebowski.
(S01E01) A lot is riding on this little NBC pet project. Like one-third of their primetime lineup. But despite all their promises and promotions that this was a comedy show, vastly different than Jay Leno's work on The Tonight Show, I saw virtually the same exact show on a different set. That's not necessarily a bad thing if you're NBC. Leno was incredibly successful for a long time on that show. Just call it what it is.
The promise that it would stay topical was brought to fruition. In the opening monologue, just like those Tonight Show monologues of yore, he drops a joke right away about the situation last night at the Video Music Awards involving Kanye West and Taylor Swift. Conveniently, Kanye was a booked guest tonight, as well, so with a little shuffling, he wound up on the chair next to Leno to talk about it.
It has a different name and logo, but the show is going to be quite a bit like The Tonight Show, with "Headlines," "Jaywalking," standup, and even "Jay's Garage." But there's also a live webcam direct from the studio. It's creepy, though. Not much going on, and there's a sound in the background like the ants in the movie Them. The show premieres on September 14.
Case in point: this clip from the past Monday. Leno was reading a couple of headlines from the Marlton Telegram, and the two headlines (one about school taxes going up, one about school taxes going down) seemed to contradict themselves (and only one page apart, by the same reporter). But they were two different stories and about two different school districts. "Headlines" is funny, though I think some of them are bogus, like when he has a pic that doesn't seem to go with a particular headline, and that's probably because of the way the article was cut out.
1. Jerry Springer. I could probably plug a dozen other shows into the number one slot, including Dr. Phil, Tyra Banks, Maury and others, but let's go with the classic. There's one good thing about this show: it makes you feel infinitely better about your own life. If you're feeling bad about something that's going wrong in your life, maybe you've had a fight with your significant other or you've lost your job or you've lost your wallet, just turn on this show. Within five minutes you'll be saying, "wow, I'm glad I'm not any of these people." (Cops gives me this feeling too, but I actually like that show.) And that includes the people in the audience.
OK, so maybe a MILF Island t-shirt isn't quite your style, but you're looking for something a little bit different than the usual Lost t-shirt or Office mug. How about a t-shirt that has headlines from CNN printed on the front?
Yup, CNN.com is selling the shirts for $15.00 (plus tax and shipping). The American Apparel shirts come in black, grey, or white,and come with a little timestamp printed on the shirt that tells you the date and time the headline was created (and for you tech geek wiseasses out there, you can alter what the shirts say, but CNN won't let you order it that way). The shirts aren't exactly getting rave reviews from other sites and journalists.
As much as some of us would like to rise above the media saturation that inevitably follows certain events (the recent death of Anna Nicole Smith being one example), it's not always an easy thing to do. Unfortunately, by the time the media coverage has receded and we can begin looking at the situation with better clarity, the focus has already shifted to the next Big Story.
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