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The Jay Leno Experiment

Jay LenoThe new Jay Leno show just started this week on NBC.  As much as I am a Leno fan, I’m a little ambivalent about the show.  I wasn’t aware that after he left The Tonight Show that he would be back on so soon, and with his own one hour show.  Don’t get me wrong, I like Leno way more than Letterman.  That’s probably because I live on the West Coast and appreciate the LA humor more than the uppity Lettterman comments.  I was glad to see all the usual suspects still on staff like Kevin Eubanks and John Melendez (who has the greatest job ever by doing absolutely nothing!).  Eubanks provides more comic relief than musical talent, not afraid to take Leno’s bait for a joke or be the butt of one.

I do love the little games that he does like Headlines and Jay-walking.  But with so many other good shows on in the 10/9 pm slot, there’s no need to watch on a daily basis.  Instead of watching the entire show for a full 60 minutes, you could just go to Hulu or and catch the highlights.  It was a great idea to get Jerry Seinfeld on the first episode as well as Kanye West.  There are those conspiracy theorists who said that Kanye’s actions at the VMAs were fueled to draw viewers.  Although outlandish, I’m sure there are crazier things that have occurred in the TV industry than that.

In my humble television watching experience, NBC is lacking for major dramatic shows.  I think that they have highly successful comedic hits like The Office and 30 Rock, as well as a couple new ones in Parks & Recreation and Community.  But to try and survive on three different Law & Orders per week won’t get a network very far—not when CSI still has a loyal following, the last season of Lost is going to air, and 24 Jack Bauer fans are waiting for a new day to begin.  In order to try and compensate, NBC has cleared the 10/9 pm slot for Leno, hoping that he will draw primetime fans.  This is a huge risk on their part, shuffling shows around.  I do know they moved Law & Order SVU from Tuesdays 10/9 to Wednesdays at 9/8 (which isn’t a big deal to me).

The initial hype is for the Leno show is decent, but this will probably wind up in a failed attempt by NBC.  They still rank fourth behind CBS, ABC, and FOX.  Although Leno is so powerful that he can get away with wearing denim shirts with jeans, I venture to say he won’t have enough strength to pull NBC out of their slump single-handed.  The question that remains is will he have the staying power like his predecessor Johnny Carson did in the 80s.  That will be hard with all the other programming that’s available during 10/9 pm.  I wish him all the best and I’ll definitely tune in, but that’s more as a last resort when it’s a slow TV night.  With all the major shows coming back for sweeps, it might be a tough ride for Leno.

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