The Jay Leno Show Episode Recap: Monday, September 14, 2009

On the premiere episode of The Jay Leno Show, the Tonight Show vet's new prime-time talk show/variety show/comedy hybrid, Kanye West did some time in the chair to complete an act of contrition for bullying tender flower Taylor Swift at Sunday's MTV: Video Music Awards. Jerry Seinfeld mocked Leno for not being able to get a better first guest. Leno interviewed President Obama...sort of. Dan Finnerty and the Dan Band serenaded car washers. Jay-Z, West and Rihanna performed. And then there were Headlines. So, how did it all go? Read on to find out...

Putting aside the "making television history" hubbub that the media has perpetrated in recent days (full disclosure: guilty!), Jay Leno has some lofty expectations to meet with his new show. On the one hand, he's a proven commodity who kept The Tonight Show in the fine condition in which Johnny Carson left it to him (in other words, in first place) for 17 years, so the man clearly knows his way around a boob tube. On the other hand, "edgy" is not exactly his middle name, and for a generation raised on farm-fresh yuks from the likes of Jon Stewart, Conan O'Brien, and, say, the Internet, more jokes about men hogging the remote control aren't going to cut it. Add to that the general resentment felt for the loss of five hours of scripted programming, and Leno's got his work cut out for him.

All that said, the opening of tonight's premiere is notable for its overall dated appearance. The credits display a nostalgic array of vintage photos of Leno from his salad days as an aspiring comic. A new theme song by Kevin Eubanks and the Prime-Time Band is a serviceable, implacable blues-rock riff, which, it's fair to say, is more than reminiscent of Leno's Tonight Show theme. The new set is bathed in vibrant pink, purple and orange gels that shout, "Tonight we're going to party like it's 1991!" One almost-modern touch: Instead of a parting curtain, Leno makes his way to center stage through a set of automated glass doors that would be at home in any neighborhood Costco.

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