Founder / Editor


Associate Editor


Assistant Editor











GUEST BLOG #50: P.J. Bednarski on Leno, The Day After
September 15, 2009  | By P.J. Bednarski

[Bianculli here: My own review of the premiere of NBC's The Jay Leno Show can be heard today on NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross, or on the Fresh Air website after about 5 p.m. ET by clicking here. Meanwhile, here's contributing writer P.J. Bednarski's take on Leno's move Monday from late night to prime time...]


America may still be able to fall asleep watching Jay Leno.

His 10 p.m. premiere showing on NBC Monday night was a showcase for bad television and an embarrassment for a network trying so hard to create a marketing "event" that it forgot Leno's talents: A powerful gimmick in the variety show/talk show toolbox is real or illusionary spontaneity, not a video screen featuring a "surprise" appearance by Oprah Winfrey. God, that was painful.

The first show was bad enough to get a network-TV-watcher a little peeved. If this is what we're going to get every night, NBC will have failed to launch a programming experiment that could have been interesting, and should be kicked around for wasting the moment. One night does not a massive failure make, but NBC and Leno too eagerly began digging their own grave Monday night.


Even the monologue wasn't very crisp. Leno cracked wise about the University of Wyoming's decision to name its center for international students after that great world Kumbaya-chanter Dick Cheney, and Leno couldn't resist the irony of the item. Trouble is, Conan O'Brien did exactly the same joke last week, and The New York Times repeated it in its Laugh Lines feature in Sunday's Week in Review.

The funniest moments in the show all involve Kanye West. He was supposed to to be creating an instant headline with the celebrity heartfelt apology of the week, that for rudely dissing Taylor Swift on an MTV awards show Sunday night and leaving her on stage humiliated.


Leno managed to get West at least squeamish -- or at least looking squeamish -- by asking what West's recently departed mother would have thought of his MTV appearance. West's response has to be boiled down to a paraphrase -- if you DVRed the premiere, and have the time, transcribe West's reply and try to find the full, coherent sentence. I don't think it's there.

Anyway, he said she wouldn't have liked it, in so, so many words. It was pathetic to watch Leno try coax this emotional crescendo, but after West did a lackluster shame bit, it was time to move on. Said Leno, all bubbly-like, "Hey, you ready to sing? Give it a shot?" Somehow, West pulled it together.

Unfortunately, Leno did not. This was one bad hour of television.



P.J. Bednarski is a veteran TV critic and former executive editor of Broadcasting & Cable magazine.







Sarah said:

Wow, between this and what I read on other websites, I am glad I missed it and won't be tuning in anytime soon. Kanye West really should have um postponed his appearance, and using already done jokes is just bad. I can't wait until the new season starts and I have new/returning scripted series to watch before my REAL late night laughs.

Comment posted on September 15, 2009 2:48 PM

Jim said:

I didn't think Leno did that badly. As far as I'm concerned, it would have been pretty good for a late-night show, but not good enough for prime time. I don't expect it to last long.

Comment posted on September 15, 2009 3:00 PM

Diane Werts said:

But, P.J., what did you really think of it?


Comment posted on September 15, 2009 3:16 PM

Rich said:

I was saying this was a disaster before Jay Leno left 11:30 (last May). I think Jay & NBC got way too comfortable with the success of Jay's run. This always seemed like a 'Kamekazi' move by NBC and my only explaination is:

If they didn't sew up Conan, they'd lose 12:30 and 11:30 (Kimmel isn't that bad on ABC and made a niche' since 2003) if Jay walked or was wooed away. Maybe they knew 'This' would fail and in order to keep the good will with Jay they'll agree to buy him out and cancel the show by Jan.

Here's an point to ponder- while Jay is keep 10 PM warm Maybe NBC is using him as 'Filler' while they tweak & concoct new Drama's or show to later stick there. It costs like a million a night to fill that spot with a Drama (ANY Drama) now times 5- what are they paying Jay per year? How much does it cost to make his live show? This a cost-cutting move by NBC. Leno is essentially "Stucco" keeping the walls from cracking until the local news and Conan.

The smart thing would be to experiment with different 'Talent' and let various comedians host their own segments (for Jay) and let Jay be 'ring master' you could have Jim Norton, Patrice O'Neil, David Duchovny, or Kelly Ripa go do a zany stunt or interview someone 'Odd' and it's all spontanious as P.J. suggests would create excitement.

You'd never know who was going to make what? Paris Hilton interviews Fox News's Glen Beck. Gilbert Gottfried or Kevin Smith play sports with Amish people in Pa...what? You'd watch that! Why cause it's not the same old Jay!


Comment posted on September 15, 2009 5:02 PM

notunfunny said:

It was EXACTLY what I thought it would be. Leno has been bland, generic, boring, dull, unfunny and perfectly ideal for falling asleep to for years at 11:30.

Why on earth would it be any different at 10?

Better question, why is Letterman in repeats?

Comment posted on September 15, 2009 9:16 PM

Dan said:

I DVRerd the show and even with that it was unwatchable. Jay is basically a middle of the road likeable guy, and I actually felt sorry for him.

Five nights a week of this will never last. I give it until October.

Sarah, thankfully when the new season starts we will have real television series to watch on the OTHER networks and cable TV, while NBC continues to fade as a once great network. Like you, I cannot wait for the new shows and my old favorites. (Boy will I miss ER on Thursday nights).

In the interim, if NBC wanted to try a new bold 10 PM experiment, it should have given Leno one night a week to do a true comedy/variety show, something actually entertaining for a change.

Where has all the talent gone?

I also think he is going to KILL Conan, already struggling against Letterman with his own problems.

Entertainment, something sorely lacking at NBC of late.

Comment posted on September 15, 2009 11:47 PM

Doug Dobbs said:

I was surprised Jay's new show is not in surround sound. I have a 5.1 system and it's only being broadcast in stereo. You'd think with a complete retooling of the set and entire look, the sound would be just as great.

Comment posted on September 16, 2009 8:55 AM

Joy said:

The long and short of it is that the show is boring. There's nothing new about it.

I'd love to see the return of a real variety show--something fun and entertaining between all the horrible news on TV. This isn't it.

Comment posted on September 16, 2009 2:48 PM

Aaron said:

In all of Leno's interviews leading up to Monday, his response to "what's different" was to say that the desk was gone, the set was new, they had some "correspondents", and some new bits. It sounded like he was being cagey, however that is exactly what we got. Too bad it isn't enough.

Actually with the way the promos were hitting headlines and his talk of correspondents I thought they were going to try to rip off The Daily Show.

Comment posted on September 18, 2009 5:37 PM
Leave a Comment: (No HTML, 1000 chars max)
 Name (required)
 Email (required) (will not be published)
Type in the verification word shown on the image.