What We Liked─and Didn't─About Jay in Primetime

Kanye West's profusely apologetic appearance on the premiere episode of The Jay Leno Show proved two things: one, that after becoming known for petulant stunts,Kanye stepped on a land mine this time and he knows it. But it also proved that NBC might be onto something with this whole late-night-in-primetime idea. We know Jay's new show was probably going to get big ratings for its maiden voyage, thanks to the rubberneckers,but having the radioactive Kanye as a guest practically guaranteed a strong debut.

"This is what's nice about doing a show every day," Jay said, teasing the Kanye interview that would come later. Of course, he was always doing a show every day, but now his show is in primetime, a massive opportunity to capitalize on the latest breaking pop-culture obsessions. If Jay's bookers are content to feature whatever actor is promoting a romantic comedy that week, The Jay Leno Show has limited potential to best its scripted competition. But if he can keep the Kanye moments coming, keep landing exclusives like his still-classic interview with post-hooker Hugh Grant, he could occasionally best even new scripted fare.

Much like the Hugh Grant interview, the sitdown with Kanye was a little funny and a little awkward, and while it wasn't particularly illuminating it'll be what everyone is talking about in the morning. There's not much else to talk about, considering there isn't much difference between the new show and Jay's Tonight Show. There's more comedy, though it's of the bland, topical variety that Jay is known for. Jay hosted The Tonight Show for long enough that audiences came to expect that his middle-of-the-road humore he deals in, but in the earlier time slot it feels out of place. As usual, the monologue was tepid, and a short film about a musical car wash from The Dan Band, one of the comedy correspondents in Jay's new troupe, was interminable.

Jay's interview with a tuxedoed Jerry Seinfeld, held in his cozy, informal, deskless seating area, was mildly funny, but certainly not the sort of thing I'd watch over a scripted drama. The way forward for Jay is to become the TMZ of variety shows. Anytime a celebrity behaves badly, he needs to be capitalizing on it. Granted, it's not every day someone makes as big as ass of himself as does Kanye, but Jay's strategy for becoming a hit, rather than just a bargain, is to develop a journalistic obsession with celebrities behaving badly.