‘The Jay Leno Show’: What The Critics Are Saying

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The Jay Leno Show premiered Monday night, ending months of anticipation and speculation as to what the primetime program would look like. Now that the critics have had a chance to taste the comedian’s 10 p.m. offering, what do they think? Below is a sampling of what they have to say.

Brian Lowry, Daily Variety To what should be the surprise of no one, Jay Leno’s new show looks a whole lot like the old one — defined more by his real estate than the cosmetic changes brought to “The Jay Leno Show” to mollify fidgety affiliates.

James Poniewozik, Time Magazine:  The question is: in the YouTube age-though NBC swears the Leno show will be “DVR-proof”-how much of this audience will sit through an hour of Jay, and how many just wait for bits they want online?

Verne Gay, Newsday:  The jokes felt familiar, the monologue, too. Someone, however, might want to alert Universal lot security: The couch was missing. Otherwise, what was so different between his last gig and this one, besides the hour?

Aaron Barnhart, The Kansas City Star:  Instead, the first “Jay Leno Show” was reminiscent of nothing so much as a typical “Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” with A-list stars, a monologue, a musical act and - this being Monday - the deathless “Headlines” segment.

Joshua Alston, Newsweek: Much like the Hugh Grant interview, the sitdown with Kanye was a little funny and a little awkward, and while it wasn’t particularly illuminating it’ll be what everyone is talking about in the morning. There’s not much else to talk about, considering there isn’t much difference between the new show and Jay’s Tonight Show.

Mary McNamara, Los Angeles Times: With all eyes on Leno, this is the best he, and his writers, and the struggling network could come up with? A “Cheaters” parody in which the joke is that he and bandleader Kevin Eubanks are having an affair? Edgy stuff for Jay, perhaps, and brave of any middle-aged man to appear on TV in argyle, but honestly, NBC. Has it come to this?

Allessandra Stanley, The New York Times: Mr. West’s apology didn’t fit NBC’s definition of the Leno hour as an refreshing infusion of stand-up comedy into the bathos of 10 p.m. network dramas and detective shows. If anything, the premiere out Oprah-ed “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” and not because of the short pre-taped cameo Ms. Winfrey made as a joke during Jerry Seinfeld’s segment.

Tom Maurstad, The Dallas Morning News: The crucible moment came when Leno asked West what his mother, who died in 2007, would have said to him. For several long, aching moments, West sat silent and appeared to be fighting back tears. For a man notorious for his bigger-than- life braggadocio, it was stunning. He capped his atonement by announcing he was going to “take some time off and analyze how I’m going to make it through the rest of my life.”

Robert Bianco, USA Today: If you found Leno’s routine amusing before, you probably found it amusing Monday night. And given his propensity for repeating jokes, you’ll probably find it amusing Tuesday night as well.

Hank Stuever, The Washington Post: Amid some lame-same comedy bits… certainly there’s potential. Nobody makes it seem as though everything’s hunky-dory better than Leno. No civility crisis here: Life is merely always ridiculous.

Jeremy Gerard, Bloomberg:  The blandness factor Leno assiduously fine-tuned at 11:30 is better suited to a postprandial living room chat than the at least marginally sophisticated tone of his predecessors, Johnny Carson and Jack Paar. Fans won’t be disappointed; anyone expecting actual wit from Leno after his release from the late- night format will quickly reach for the remote.

Daniel Fienberg, HitFix: The presence of Kanye West on the “Jay Leno Show” premiere will doubtlessly be a huge ratings boon, which is all that anybody cares about at NBC, but in terms of helping Leno define his show, it was just poor timing. In addition to sucking any levity out of the show, it will instantly throw into doubt its only accepted purpose. So much for Leno emphasizing comedy and attempting to downplay the role of celebrity guests

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