Commentary: Meet the New Jay; Same as the Old Jay

by | September 15, 2009 at 8:44 AM | 42-Inch Television, TV News

(NBC)

(NBC)

(Editor’s Note: Christopher Rosen, familiar to readers of the New York Observer, brings his take on the world of TV to Fancast, starting with this post. You will be able to find his commentaries under the category ’42-Inch Television.’ To Rosen, size matters.)

For once, you have to give NBC credit. As the network suggested throughout the summer, ‘The Jay Leno Show‘ is, in fact, DVR proof. Unfortunately, it might be for slightly different reasons than they had expected.

Now that the premiere of fall’s most widely anticipated series—you didn’t see ‘The Forgotten’ on the cover of TIME magazine, did you?—is part of television history, it seems clear that the show is DVR proof because you’d never actually want to DVR it anyway. That isn’t a slam, so much as a statement of fact. Chances are, you didn’t record The Tonight Show when Jay Leno was host either.

Watch clips and highlights.

And make no mistake: ‘The Jay Leno Show’ is ‘The Tonight Show’, but aired an hour and a half earlier. Everything, from the stale, Catskills-ready political humor to Kevin Eubanks’ incessant chuckle, is familiar to anyone who caught Leno’s previous hosting gig.

Ascetically, the only difference is that he now conducts interviews without the help of a desk, instead opting for a pair of comfortable looking chairs. (Fear not loyal Leno-heads: a desk did make an appearance at the end of the show when Jay regaled viewers with his patented “Headlines” segment.)

The lack of something for Leno to sit behind, however, did help liven up his interview prowess. Sure, first guest Jerry Seinfeld—donning a tuxedo for the occasion and bringing Oprah Winfrey-via-satellite with him—offered nothing. (That Seinfeld, the man who helped pioneer a show about nothing, gave an interview about nothing is an irony not lost on us).

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But during Kanye West’s apology for interrupting Taylor Swift at the VMAs, Leno seemed like a psychiatrist more than a talk show host—leaning in ever so close as he asked Kanye what his dead mother would have thought of his behavior. It wasn’t a Hugh Grant, “what the hell were you thinking?”-type laugher, but judging from NBC’s track record for 10 p.m. shows, we’d venture to say it was the most suspenseful and intimate moment the network has seen in the timeslot in ages.

Outside of that—which you’ve probably already seen replayed fifty times today—and Kanye’s subsequent performance with Jay-Z and the incredibly tall Rihanna (seriously, that girl is lanky!) on the better-every-time-we-hear-it “Run This Town,” there wasn’t a whole lot else to get excited about on The Jay Leno Show.

Read review of Leno’s debut.

Critics lampooned the show, though we’re not exactly sure why they even bothered. The people who like Jay Leno will continue to like him, while those who don’t will continue to hate. His fan base—the fans that helped him dominate late night television for the better part of a decade—is all that matters, and Leno gave them exactly what they were accustomed to seeing. And in that regard, you can put ‘The Jay Leno Show’ down on the ledger in the victory column.