Two Guys, a Girl and a TV Set

Three college friends out in the world, filling the void with television…and loving it.

The Jay Leno Show: In a word — Awkward

Posted by Mr. Feeny on September 14, 2009

That word was already spinning through my head while watching the first 40 minutes of The Jay Leno Show, which premiered tonight on NBC. Everything seemed strange and out of place. His monologue, his bits, his interview. It just wasn’t right. It was The Tonight Show without The Tonight Show. It did not feel like I was watching a new program. More on that in a moment.

But the most awkward and uncomfortable moment came three-quarters of the way through, during the Kanye West interview. Leno lucked into already having the infamous rapper scheduled to appear on tonight’s episode. To Kanye’s credit, he didn’t pull out after last night’s embarrassment with Taylor Swift. But he clearly didn’t know what to say when Jay sat down with him. He just kind of muttered some ragtag apology.

But then, Jay asked what could be considered a clever question…but just came out unsettling and like he was pouring salt in Kanye’s gaping wound (not that I feel any sympathy). But Jay asked Kanye what his mother would think about his behavior…His dead mother. The silence lasted at least 15 seconds, as he began to cry and Jay patted him on the knee. Suddenly The Tonight Show morphed in Dr. Phil. Leno really is breaking new ground! Unbelievably awkward. Not exactly comedy.

That was just the lowlight of an otherwise lackluster and tired premiere. leno-kanye-west_lHere’s a rundown of how the show went. Tell me what’s unique.

– Jay enters and shakes everyone’s hand
– Jay delivers a monologue of rapid fire jokes
– Kevin Eubanks laughs at Jay’s jokes and adds nothing else
– Jay and Kevin poke fun at each other in pre-filmed bits
– Jay sends a correspondent into the streets to toy with people
– Seinfeld and Jay sit in matching chairs and try painstakingly to avoid conducting a typical interview…and fail
– Oprah makes a surprise video appearance
– Jay splices together a fake interview with President Obama
– Jay asks Kanye if his mother’s rolling in her grave
– Kanye, Rihanna and Jay-Z perform together
– Jay shows everyone funny headlines from around the country

That was it. That was the show. It’s all been done before. By Jay. On NBC. Only 1 and a half hours later. The network’s been promoting it as a unique experiment, to have this comedy show air every day. But clearly the only unique aspect is the timeslot. Does anyone really love that tried-and-true format above so much that they’d want to watch it at 9, then at 10:30 with Conan or Letterman (or Kimmel…I guess), then at midnight with Fallon or Ferguson? Too much of the same. I guess the set was a little different…and having Oprah. But that’s all.

Jay doesnt have to do it just like Dean. He could give Bob Newhart the right-sized stool

Jay doesn't have to do it just like Dean. He could give Bob Newhart the right-sized stool.

Here’s what would make this show better. Model it after an old-fashioned variety show. Keep it casual. That doesn’t mean conduct an interview without a desk. It means have a chat on barstools, ala Dean Martin, and just joke around. Not an actual interview. Stars acting like stars, but in an everyday setting. Or put together live — not filmed — skits, ala Flip Wilson or Johnny Carson. Give us something we haven’t seen from Jay or any of his guests. It actually is a good idea to offer comedy at 9pm. I’d choose it over a lot of shows if it were original. But not the same comedy you get later.  At least for this episode, all he did was string together the same gimmicks with new spins that he’s done for years.

One more thing on the word of the day. I thought a lot of the humor was very awkward as well. As in inappropriate. There’s a difference between primetime and late night. And the language, punchlines and visuals were not primetime-friendly. I cringed each time.

I’ll probably watch the rest of this week to see if it becomes something different. But as of now…

Grade = D+ (it doesn’t fail because I do think Jay’s funny and did laugh at times)

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3 Responses to “The Jay Leno Show: In a word — Awkward”

  1. Blu said

    I have come to loathe the late night talk show format. It is so watered down from what it used to be like in the sixties and seventies when it was edgy.

    I would totally watch IF they let the host and guests drink and smoke on stage! Make it interesting again, talk about the hidden mistresses, the illegitimate kids, and the drug dealer the guest brought with him that’s packing up the food in the green room into his brief case.

    Yeah! I’d watch that!

  2. CJ Cregg said

    Interesting comment, Blu.

    I’ve never been a fan of late night shows, so it doesn’t surprise me that I didn’t like this one. To Jay’s credit, the edited fake interview with Obama made me chuckle, but I’m predisposed to like political humor. (I couldn’t find the clip to post, sorry!)

    The interview with Kanye was just AWKWARD. It was like a trainwreck. I wanted to turn the TV off so badly, but it was like road kill. I couldn’t look away.

    I agree with Mr. Feeny. There is nothing new here. I won’t be watching anymore.

    I’ll give it a C-

  3. […] commercials as part of the show (and on Hulu). As I’ve mentioned before (in my Jay Leno review), this is what I’d love to see more of on television. Casual, relaxed, pure entertainment. […]

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