The Jay Leno Show-what did we learn?

The Jay Leno Show is one of the most compelling dramas on the fall schedule. It chronicles the attempted comeback of a successful talk show host (Jay Leno, playing a fictional version of himself). But the stakes are higher than they were in late night–he’ll have to appeal to a younger audience and rejigger the talk show format. He promises the ratings won’t sink in the second half hour, which would be fatal to late night news across the country. Will he succeed? Will his show be competitive with the other networks’ reruns? NBC executives may be asking themselves the same thing about this show. In a move possibly inspired by HBO’s In TreatmentThe Jay Leno Show will air five nights a week. But will viewers get behind such a heavily serialized show, one that requires them to hang on its lead actor’s every nuance?

Despite the slightly derivative premise, the first episode holds some promise. Leno does not get off to a good start. Our protagonist struggles through his monologue and farms out early segments to outside talent. Instead of boasting new, fresh ideas, his Leno show appears to be a carbon copy of his old Tonight Show. He steals mercilessly from other comics, other shows: his first joke rips off Letterman’s first at his CBS Late Show, his “talk” with President Obama is an awkwardly unfunny version of what we’ve seen from so many other shows. He makes many self-deprecating jokes about the show’s steep odds for success, which only make him appear more desperate. His first guest, a fellow comedian who made drastically different life choices (played with gravitas by Jerry Seinfeld), jokes about undermining Jay with a 9 pm talk show, and compares him to Lance Armstrong and Brett Favre (men who let their need for attention overwhelm their careers and destroy their dignity).

But then Leno turns out to be right about something, pretty much by accident. Leno lucks into a buzzworthy guest–none other than Kanye West (played by, of course, Kanye West). West gives a riveting cameo performance as a childlike artist who’s made a very public mistake, yet doesn’t know how to express contrition. Leno imbues his character with significant complexity and heft by twisting the knife, asking West what his dead mother would think of his recent behavior. In a clever twist, this embarrassing moment mirrors the embarrassment West delivered to singer Taylor Swift the night before at an award show. For a brief moment, the show’s promise is fulfilled.

And then Jay proceeds to read typographical errors on tv, for minutes on end, sinking once more into the morass.

Like Don Draper or Tony Soprano, Jay Leno is dynamic character who harbors secret passions and burning ambitions under a false exterior, and must constantly battle his demons in order to survive. But the demons ask, can he survive without them? With a rotating cast of supporting characters, The Jay Leno show will always have plenty of material. But will it be able to transcend its repetitive premise?


0 Responses to “The Jay Leno Show-what did we learn?”

  1. Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


Error: Please make sure the Twitter account is public.



September 2009
« Aug   Oct »

%d bloggers like this: