Sunday, October 25, 2009

Leno Apologists: Who will speak for Jay?

After weeks of Leno-bashing, at least two brave souls have come forward to declare: Stop knocking Jay.'s Rick Ellis and's Dw. Dunphy have both written pro-Leno columns in the past few days. They both sound a little defensive (Ellis: "[A]dmitting a fondness for Jay Leno gets you about the same street cred as arguing that 'Coach' was the funniest TV comedy of the past 30 years"), but it's worth considering their chief points:

1. If Leno wasn't on at 10, there's no guarantee there would actually be something better in that slot. "[W]ithout him, you would get policemen five times a week, or lawyers five times a week, or surgeons five times a week, not a new wrinkle to be had in the lot," writes Dunphy. Ellis suggests that NBC affiliates would love to get their hands on an extra hour of local programming, a la FOX. "[I]f complaints about Leno are the wedge to get the timeslot, then that's what they'll use."

2. Dunphy asserts that "the show still sucks" -- with friends like these, who needs enemies? -- but Ellis says his monologue has been getting better, and appreciates the pieces turned in by Jay's stable of comedians, like Jim Norton's commentaries.

"If you watch 'The Jay Leno Show' with an open mind, you might be surprised at what you see," writes Ellis. So far, no commenters have weighed in to agree or disagree, but Dunphy's article features a slew of angry comments from people who perceived him as bashing NBC's canceled "Southland."

Of course, "Southland," which appears to be headed to cable, could end up having the last laugh. Last week, "Leno" was soundly beaten in the 18-49 ratings by FX's motorcycle drama "Sons of Anarchy."