Change bites late night show hard

(Courtesy of

Natalie Hanks

After the ratings war between Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien, the verdict is in and O’Brien is out. The Tonight Show is back with the charismatic, large-chinned host in its regular time slot but the question remains – is it better?
Last Monday I attended the premiere taping of the Tonight Show and was less than awestruck. Guests included actor and musician Jaime Foxx, Olympic gold-medalist Lindsey Vonn and country singer Brad Paisley. The guest lineup was impressive enough but somewhere along the line, it fell short.
The opening monologue had the same slightly humorous spin on current events as it has for decades. The first video segment, a Wizard of Oz tribute including a cameo from Betty White, welcomed Leno back “home” and chided NBC’s budget.
A cut to the show’s budget however was not apparent. The set had been completely redesigned with a more modern look. After a hilarious video segment where Leno scoured Burbank homes for a new desk, he unveiled the new Tonight Show desk live on the show.
First guest Jaime Foxx, who was not there to promote anything in particular, was energetic to a point of recklessness. During the interview he ran around the stage signing and dancing, and cracking open a champagne bottle on the audience. After knocking over Leno’s drink, he finally calmed down after inappropriately asking second guest Lindsey Vonn Leno’s opening question.
Lindsey Vonn, the first of many featured Olympians on the Tonight Show last week, answered all of the typical questions surrounding her gold medal win. Her interview was insightful and natural unlike Foxx’s. Vonn even joked that even though she had broken her finger, the bandage got the boot because it did not match her dress.
Last to perform was Brad Paisley who sang “American Saturday Night.” The music sounded great live but when the song was over, it was the end of the show. I was disappointed the show did not include a small interview with the singer. It seems more time could be made for talking to celebrities if the marathon monologue was trimmed down.
If you are like me and enjoyed O’Brien’s quirky humor, you are definitely not going to find it here. What the Tonight Show might lack in originality it makes up for in star power and familiar appeal.
In all, the show was entertaining but felt a little too been-there-seen-that. For a show that has had strong ratings for generations, different is apparently not what the new Tonight Show is going for.


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