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Jay Leno Returns to Late Night, Leaves Prime Time to "Parenthood"
March 2, 2010  | By David Bianculli  | 1 comment
leno-kevin-ross-intern.jpgJay Leno reclaimed his NBC Tonight Show throne Monday night, a month after vacating his prime-time slot. Filling that spot tonight? The premiere of NBC's new midseason drama entry, Parenthood. Reviews of both shows follow...

Jay Leno opened his comeback Tonight Show installment with a sepia-tinged taped sequence, in which, like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, he awakens from a dream to find himself back home. Leaning over him, instead of the Cowardly Lion and Tin Man, was bandleader Kevin Eubanks and Ross the intern.

Dorothy, of course, had traveled to a vivid, imaginative world, where she had triumphed over the Wicked Witch and earned her way back home. For Jay, the world of The Jay Leno Show was dull and lifeless, and his return to late-night was prompted not by success, but by its polar opposite.

"I'm Jay Leno," he said to open his return-night monologue. "I'm your host -- at least for a while." Over on CBS, his once and future 11:35 p.m. ET rival opened HIS show by boasting, "Welcome to The Late Show. My name is David Letterman. Same time, same host."


A pretaped piece, in which Jay knocked on residences in neighboring Burbank in search of a desk he could use on The Tonight Show, was an early highlight. Unfortunately, it was the ONLY highlight. Jay may have gotten a desk back, but he didn't improve his interviewing skills any. His Jamie Foxx interview was unfocused and uncontrolled, and his interview with Olympic gold medalist Lindsey Vonn was worse.

Vonn was there, showing off her beauty while detailing her skiing achievements, while Jay merely waited to spring his pre-written punch line. After pointing out that Vonn's husband also was her skiing coach and trainer, Jay asked. "Does that work in all aspects of the bedroom?"


Even the audience sounded taken aback by the question, and Leno apologized. "I don't know how to answer that question," Vonn replied. So she didn't, and left with her dignity intact.

What sort of questions will Jay fire, or lob, at Sarah Palin tonight? It's anybody's guess -- but Palin's appearance tonight, and the Jersey Shore cast's Wednesday night, will draw in the crowds. It'll be next week, when the guest roster finds its normal level, before we know what audience slippage Leno will experience because of his temporary prime-time debacle.

But just as Conan O'Brien can claim to be a victim of Jay Leno's desire to reclaim his late-night spotlight, so can Jimmy Fallon. This week is the one-year anniversary of Fallon's arrival on Late Night, replacing O'Brien -- but with Jay's Tonight Show returning the same night, who noticed? And, on NBC, where were the promos?

There were, however, tons of promos, all during the Olympics, for Parenthood, the second TV remake of 1989's wonderful ensemble comedy-drama Ron Howard film. Premiering on NBC tonight at 10 ET, this version, though twice as long as the first TV attempt (back in 1990, starring Ed Begley Jr.), isn't twice as good. But it does show some promise -- especially when Lauren Graham, Craig T. Nelson or Erica Christensen are front and center.


There's a scene, in the second episode, when Graham's character is attempting to enter the workforce, after more than a decade off, and is winding up a job interview with a much younger man. "I really want this job," she tells him, with such convincing raw honesty that it breaks your heart a little. And Nelson's patriarch, when he shows little patience for the children and grandchildren around him, generates similar waves of sympathy. It's hard not to agree with him.

Some of the dramatic plot lines are hit too hard, some of the comic ones too softly. But there's a lot of heart and not a little promise here -- and if this isn't nearly as good a family drama as Friday Night Lights, it comes from the same producers. And right now, they're about the only games in town...




brittney said:

The show I wanted to see being promoted more was Minute To Win It! That show looks like so much fun! I cant wait for the premiere on the 14th!

Comment posted on March 2, 2010 2:40 PM

Jim said:

Well, I watched Jay Leno's return and got that out of the way. I pretty much agree with your analysis. Back to Letterman tonight, although I suppose I'll have to DVR Leno for the Palin interview. (Last night I missed Letterman because I was already DVR'ing Leno and "Days of Heaven" and I can only DVR two shows at one time. Probably just as well, or I'd never get any sleep ...)

Comment posted on March 2, 2010 3:55 PM

Graham said:

No mention of Southland's premiere in tonight's Best Bets? [Sorry, no -- And there were other painful just-missed-the-cut offerings last night, including, sigh, West Side Story, To Kill a Mockingbird and Frontline... -- David B.]

Comment posted on March 2, 2010 6:20 PM

Tausif Khan said:

Between Jay Leno and Sarah Palin you couldn't tell who was running for office. Leno: I watch both MSNBC and FOX News. Palin: I am not the leader of the Tea Party but I like their independence.

I really enjoyed Parenthood. I liked how all of the family was together and are a part of each others lives. Although the Lauren Graham story seems a little too much like Lorelai Gilmore's story.

Comment posted on March 3, 2010 12:44 AM

Lisa said:

I'm still not sure how I feel about Parenthood. I'm gonna agree up top with whoever said they were looking forward to Minute to Win It--the show looks incredibly silly and yet still pretty entertaining

Comment posted on March 3, 2010 5:33 PM
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