Monday, September 14, 2009

Don't Call It a Comeback...

In my quest to become the de facto (or default) Arts staff late-night critic, I'm here to live blog what should be an interesting night in primetime/late-night television. Let's strap in for some crit, wit and maybe a little bullshit courtesy of "The Jay Leno Show."

9:01 p.m. The theme song sounds the same as the Jay's "Tonight Show" theme. Maybe it's because the band members haven't changed.

9:02 p.m. Well, judging by the Obama/Kanye/Taylor Swift "root beer" summit joke, Jay's humor is still the same.

9:05 p.m. Oh, look, something visual. Jay knows he's not trying to reach a new audience. And certainly not a more erudite audience.

9:07 p.m. Jay's talking about an unscripted show he did that he's embarrassed about. Jay, don't be so hard on yourself, sometimes "The Tonight Show" was OK.

9:09 p.m. I know it's only the first commercial break, but for as different as Jay Leno promised his new show would be in his unbearable Bataan Death March of a press blitz, it seems like more of the same. Nothing wrong with that, because let's be honest, NBC hasn't taken chances in years. Plus, they didn't hire Leno to do something different.

9:12 p.m. I don't get why Jay is pretending the show is going to be a departure from "The Tonight Show." Probably because his core audience is naive enough to believe him. Sorry, people over 60, that crack was rude. Put your teeth back in and tell me.

9:14 p.m. Dan Finnerty and The Dan Band are a welcome addition to this episode. I want the Dan Band to play my wedding, Old School-style. Provided they all live to see the next century, and provided live music is still a viable means of entertainment.

9:14 p.m. You've earned a break. Check this out:

9:16 p.m. I just noticed the screen bug in the bottom left corner. Seriously Jay? Who's the programming wizard who came up with that? As if the peacock is too threatening at this hour, or too much of a reminder of "The Tonight Show."

9:17 p.m. I appreciate the effort, but this bit is dragging. No love lost for Dan though. Still think he's awesome.

9:19 p.m. If I didn't love him enough, I just found out another reason why Dan Finnerty rocks: He's married to Kathy Najimy. SWEET. Wait, why am I thinking about him when it's Jay's debut? Ah, a diversion. Pretty sneaky, sis.

9:23 p.m Jerry will make this worth it. He's never led me astray. Well, except for with Michael Richards, but that's not even Jerry's fault.

9:24 p.m. Jerry just called Jay and Conan out for their faux-farewells. And in doing so proves why he's comedy's gold standard.

9:26 p.m Jay couldn't get Oprah on the show? Because her heart belongs to David Letterman. And so does mine.

9:26 p.m. And then Oprah showed up. Traitor.

9:27 p.m. My love for Oprah is no secret, but the Jay Leno timeslot jokes are already wearing as thin as Kate Gosselin's patience. SERIOUSLY.

9:28 p.m. Watching this show makes me feel like a kid at a bad magic show: I see the false-bottom in the trunk. I see the strings and your lips are moving while the dummy talks. Stop trying to fool me with the missing desk and the single guest and the new set, I KNOW I'M WATCHING "THE TONIGHT SHOW." And I'm guessing everyone else does too. It's like if Megan Fox played the same character in every movie but tried to tell audiences the films were different...sorry, bad example.

9:32 p.m. The This Is It trailer is the most entertaining part of "The Jay Leno Show" experience.

9:37 p.m. A mock Obama interview. More of that signature "Tonight Show" comedy. Pay no attention to the bland behind the curtain, Dorothy.

9:38 p.m. I wish this was Conan and he was doing the Clutch Cargo lips routine. Take a look:

9:39 p.m. I guess I should come clean with this tidbit: I never worshipped Jay Leno or his "Tonight Show." That's probably why I'm not enjoying the primetime incarnation.

9:41 p.m. Kanye, Rihanna and Jay-Z can't appear soon enough. This should tide us over:

9:42 p.m. NBC just hyped late night, with explicit references to it as a different entity and Conan's "Tonight Show." Wise move.

9:44 p.m. Yay for 'Ye. This is going to be amazing, or maudlin. Don't disappoint me, Mr. West.

9:44 p.m. Kanye pretending to be an altruist makes me a little sad. You're cocky, that's what we love about you!

9:45 p.m. Good thing the camera's on 'Ye, so you can't see Leno's giant erection. He's ecstatic at his luck regarding the West-Swift VMA situation and Mr. West's booking on the show.

9:46 p.m. Vague and sincere. And sad about his mom. Awkward. Jay took away 'Ye's swagger. I understand, but what a downer.

9:49 p.m. I'm wondering if Lil Mama is going to jump on stage. And will that give 'Ye something ELSE to apologize for?

9:50 p.m. It's just redundant to criticize Rihanna's clothing at this point, but she's continuing her Patty Hearst homage with that blonde hair.

9:52 p.m. You wonder why Kanye behaves the way he does? Because he can do THAT.

9:52 p.m. Still feels like "The Tonight Show" with Jay awkwardly thanking guests too cool to care.

9:54 p.m. "Headlines!" Yet another radical departure from "The Tonight Show." Staying on the cutting age, eh Jay?

9:56 p.m. I respect Jay a lot, and I think he's the best at what he does, like Mike Douglas or Merv Griffin. But I don't respect what he does. I don't like "big tent" entertainment, especially when it's pretending to be something different. Just admit you wanted to keep your job so you took the next best thing to stick it to everyone.

9:58 p.m. I appreciate "Headlines." It's just so EASY though. They're empty laughs and not particularly satisfying.

9:59 p.m. There's Jay plugging the affiliates. They got him "The Tonight Show" and he's hoping they'll help him keep "The Jay Leno Show."

So I wasn't impressed.

I smiled but didn't laugh.

But I didn't fall asleep. And I'm anxiously awaiting Conan.

I think Jay did what he does best: He played to the middle and pleased the lowest common denominator. Tonight's debut of "The Jay Leno Show" is a success because Leno brought his sensibility to the prime time audience. I think he'll continue to succeed because he doesn't have to change. Hawkeye fans should understand this: Whether a football game starts at 11 a.m. or 7 p.m., the field is still the same length and touchdowns are still worth the same amount. Just the same, Jay Leno still has to make people laugh. All he has to do is as much as he's always done. And while the venue has changed, just as in football there are home and away games, the fundamentals still remain.

Keep checking "D-(eye) On Arts" for the full-length diatribe I'll post later this week.

-Meryn, who just wants more 'Ye and less Jay.

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