Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Jay Leno Round-Up: Great ratings, so-so reviews

NBC's relentless promotion paid off -- 18 million viewers tuned in to watch Jay Leno's first prime time show, a number the New York Times' Bill Carter described as "almost NFL sized" (a pair of games on the Peacock Network last week reached just over 20 million viewers).

Of course, NBC, which has been playing the low expectations game for weeks now, is not breaking out the press releases declaring Jay the New King of Prime Time. Jeff Gaspin, Chairman of NBC Universal Television Entertainment, said in a statement: "It's great to launch this innovative new show with such strong initial sampling, but we realize this is just one night and that we're going to build our business in this time period with ratings that will level out over time. Our focus is on delivering a great show and developing a consistent comedy viewing habit at 10 p.m. over the long haul." In other words, don't call Jay a failure if his audience eventually dwindles to a quarter of that big number!

Leno also got a nice lead-in from "America's Got Talent," which scored 15 million viewers in its last half hour. The whole Kanye West controversy probably helped, too.

Jay has never been a critical favorite, to put it mildly, and he has never gotten the Emmy love shown to peers like David Letterman and Conan O'Brien. I watched the show, and, well, it was Jay. Either you like him or you don't. The interview with Jerry Seinfeld seemed overly scripted, but in the era of the pre-interview, spontaneity was choked out of talk show banter a long time ago. The Dan Band's silly taped car-wash bit seemed to go on forever. But it was nice to see the Headlines again back in their regular Monday spot, the Kanye West interview provided a water-cooler moment, and there were some good monologue jokes. After all these years, everyone has made up their mind about Leno; those who have missed him over the summer will be glad he's back, and the rest of the viewing public can simply avoid tuning in to NBC at 10 PM.

And now, a sampling of the critical response:

"It's not a good sign when the Bud Light commercial is funnier than the comedy show it interrupts... 'The Jay Leno Show' promises to be better than, say, Rosie O'Donnell's mad flight into variety, but gosh darn it, at least Rosie took some chances. Leno, with the world at his feet, took none at all, unless you count some bawdy word play on the nickname for Richard, which I most emphatically don't." -Los Angeles Times

"To what should be the surprise of no one, Jay Leno's new show looks a whole lot like the old one... All the old trademarks were there." -Variety

"...without Kanye West, and his conveniently timed controversy from the MTV Video Music Awards, NBC's 'Jay Leno Show' premiere Monday would have been even more of a cut-rate, snooze-inducing, rehashed bore. If Leno's desire is to help fans get to sleep earlier, desire satisfied." -USA Today

"10 is not 11:35. Ten has to move faster. It's less forgiving of lulls, or even slowdowns. You can't serve up a few peak moments and cruise in between, because when you do that, it's like an open invitation to your viewers to pick up the dreaded clicker and 'see what else is on'... Last night's show was a good and not-surprising reminder that 1) Leno will always provide some laughs, and 2) almost no one can provide a full hour of laughs." -New York Daily News

"I give Jay's latest effort a firm pat on the back. Keep the scandal-ridden guests on the schedule and make the Dan Band a permanent fixture, and I'll be back for more." -Chicago Sun-Times

Meanwhile, over on the TV superfan site Television Without Pity, reader response was pretty negative: "Well, that was pretty boring..." "it was as pathetic and as bland as I thought it would be..." "There wasn't one good segment..." "while I enjoyed Jay's tenure on The Tonight Show, The Jay Leno Show was not good..." "as someone who actually likes Jay, I was hoping for better than what we got."


  1. Anonymous said...

    I guess Leno not getting any Emmy love as you put it, just shows how mediocre he and his show were.

    Im sure Kanye West's appearance alone boosted the ratings by a couple million. haha. But something like that wont happen often.

    And also, LOL @ the USA Today review. Good one.