Like most hatreds, my feelings for Leno are irrational. I mean, yes, he pretty much empirically sucks, but his brand of humor is so resolutely innocuous that hating him is totally overboard — it’s like hating ice cubes or milk. Leno’s style of entertainment is the kind of thing that you either chuckle at or ignore; if it doesn’t float your boat, you say “I don’t care for it,” not “I hate that motherfucker,” or “this date is over,” which is what I would shout in the ’90s if the girl I was out with told me she was a fan. Watching Leno continually trounce the funnier, more insightful Letterman in the ratings all those years only amplified my black loathing, to the point where I’m pretty sure I squealed like a third-grade girl when I read NBC’s (waaaay premature) announcement that Conan O’Brien would be taking over The Tonight Show this year.
And then, like a hug that turns into a punch in the nuts, the network went and gave Leno their 10 PM slot, five awful nights a week, for the typically creatively named The Jay Leno Show. Because the Popdose TV-critic slot is like the Spinal Tap drummer’s chair, and we don’t have anyone else who can cover the fall debuts, I was left wincing in pain as I picked up the remote and turned away from a very good fourth quarter of Monday Night Football and toward my hammy televised nemesis.
Well. Duty might compel me to subject myself to an hour of Jay Leno, but I’m not giving him any more of my time. Here, dear readers, are my notes from the series premiere of The Jay Leno Show. Spoiler alert, America: If this thing ends up being successful enough to make the other networks follow suit with shitty 10 PM talk shows of their own, I will never forgive you.
0:00 Wow, would you look at that opening? Between the shitty, shaky graphics and the hokey theme song, it’s like Jerry Springer in here.
0:01 Jay is politely mobbed by the audience!
0:03 “I apologize for my face being all over the place.” Apology accepted, Jay. Thank you.
0:03 The first awful Joe Wilson joke of the night brings the house down. Guys, if you don’t stop enabling him, he’ll never learn.
0:04 Leno is setting back political humor hundreds of years.
0:06 Uh-oh! Kevin interrupted the monologue!
0:07 Okay, this fake Cheaters bit where Jay catches Eubanks hanging out in the park with a Leno lookalike isn’t awful.
0:14 The guy from the Dan Band? Taking the guy who’s made a career out of putting “fuck” in popular songs and making him bland enough for Leno at 10:00? This should be not interesting …
0:23 In a perfect analogy for his entire hosting career, Leno kicks off his Seinfeld interview by holding up a copy of last week’s Entertainment Weekly.
0:26 Jerry, Oprah, and Jay, together on one screen! For better or worse, NBC’s quest for the middle of the road is coming together.
0:28 Jerry jokes that he’s getting an NBC talk show at 9 PM. At least Seinfeld used to be funny.
0:30 Jerry’s riffing on marriage now, and making the Seinfeld series finale look like a masterpiece of comedy.
0:35 Oh no. Leno’s pretending he got an interview with Obama. This shit is never funny.
0:36 Nope. Still not funny.
0:43 Surprise, everybody! It’s Kanye West! It would have been funnier to have him interrupt Seinfeld’s segment, but then again, this is Leno’s show.
0:44 This is the most awkwardly contrite apology I think I’ve ever seen … Oh, shit! Leno played the mom card! He’s trying to have his Hugh Grant moment on the very first show!
0:46 If I accepted Jay’s apology at the top of the show, does that mean I have to forgive Kanye?
0:48 I have no doubt Jay-Z is going to kick all kinds of ass, but what does his presence on this show say about his place in pop culture? I mean, if he appeals to Leno’s target demographic, shouldn’t he just pack it in now? Or is NBC trying to have its cake and eat it too?
0:49 Rihanna is dancing like a girl who’s pissed off at her prom date. Her vocal on the hook is my least favorite part of this song.
0:54 Closing with “Headlines” after that performance is pretty anticlimactic, but I can see the wisdom — Leno just scared the hell out of every middle-aged white person in Omaha, and now he has to soothe them with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
0:58 Again, the graphics on this show are awful. I suspect NBC cut corners by hiring a design intern away from Judge Judy.
0:59 … And we’re done! A direct lead-in to local news is a great way of giving props to affiliates who know they’re going to lose viewers to stations that are showing actual television at ten. Me, I’m going back to football. See you when they televise your funeral, Leno.