But that was never actually going to be the case. There’s such a dearth of middle-aged male millionaires who aren’t as funny as they think they are on TV right now that Jay Leno was never going to stay retired for long.
And now we know what Jay Leno’s next show will be – it’s his old show, basically – on the same network, in the same studio and broadcast 90 minutes earlier so even more people can get contaminated by watch it.
It’s fair to say that there are two types of people in the world – the type that finds Jay Leno funny and the type that’s medically allowed to operate heavy machinery.
However, you can’t deny Jay Leno’s popularity – whether it’s because he’s been the voice that lulls America to sleep with slightly rubbish jokes and interviews so bland that they may as well be conducted by a knitted frog in a hat for 15 years, or whether it’s because people love watching middle-aged men make blusteringly inappropriate gay jokes to minor actors, Jay Leno is inexplicably beloved by millions of weirdos.
And that causes a problem for NBC. Years ago Jay Leno decided that he was going to retire from The Tonight Show in 2009, so NBC quickly moved in and made sure that they signed up Conan O’Brien to take his place. But then as 2009 got closer, Jay Leno got ants in his pants and decided that maybe he wanted to stay, but he couldn’t stay, and all the other TV networks were like “Hey, come join us!” and Jay Leno started spinning around in a daze and took out six storefront windows with his giant chin because he was so disorientated. Figuratively.
But now the problem has finally been solved. Jay Leno has announced his new show, and it’ll come as good news to anyone who liked his old show. Because, well, it is his old show. But here’s the thing – it’s going to be broadcast at 10pm instead of 11:35pm. The New York Times reports:
The new show, which will begin next fall, is expected to be set in Mr. Leno’s longtime studio in Burbank, Calif. Mr. Leno is expected to retain many of the most popular elements of his “Tonight Show,” including his monologue and bits like “Headlines” and “Jay Walking.” One “Tonight Show” staff member said the new program would not be a variety show.
Theoretically this could be a winner for NBC. Jay Leno is a much-loved performer who’ll be exposed to an earlier timeslot – and therefore a much bigger audience – with his new show. This could mean he’d get the jump on all the big-name guests, leaving the late-night talkshows to blunder through interviews with reality TV stars and authors of books about amusing rock formations.
There are downsides to this gamble too, though – by putting his show on at 10pm five times a week, Jay Leno’s competition stops being David Letterman and starts being CSI and Without A Trace and other wildly popular police dramas that he’ll have trouble keeping up with.
Plus, putting Jay Leno on at 10pm means that NBC is giving over three hours of every day to three different versions of the exact same formula. Not only is 15 hours a week of chat massive overkill, but it’s going to make people resent poor Jimmy Fallon more than they already do, if that’s even possible.
Finally, though – and this is the biggest downside of all – how long will it be before America discovers that it only found Jay Leno funny when it was drowsy and on the verge of sleep? We’re going to hazard a guess here – it’ll be about 12 seconds.