As Jay Leno marks his last 10 p.m. show tonight, a few suggestions on what he should leave behind
When NBC pre-empted a new episode of The Jay Leno Show last week -- allowing an in-disguise Leno to fly into New York City and tape his sidesplitting Super Bowl promo with David Letterman and Oprah Winfrey -- no one in media actually noticed.
So there won't be many tears when Leno logs his last show tonight, capping a venture which always seemed a bit halfhearted on his part and which dragged down NBC's prime time fortunes seriously (When Stephen King writes a column celebrating your show's demise, you know it bit some serious tuchas).
Reportedly, Leno already has a new desk picked out for his March return to The Tonight Show. But just in case he's not sure, here's a short list of the stuff he needs to leave behind with the concept of taking over prime time.
The 10 @ 10 bit: Jimmy Kimmel ripped the lid off this sham, telling his audience that the producers for Leno set up the questions in advance -- providing no excuse for how lame and uncomfortable this segment usually is (my worst moment: watching Tom Cruise croak his way through Isn't She Lovely, knowing there's no way he doesn't have some aide/nanny/Scientology recruit doing that job for him at home)
The geeky car race: Here's the thing -- speeding along a test track in a souped up hybrid car is mostly fun for the person doing the driving. For us lugs stuck at home with our gas-guzzling SUVs, not so much.
The Dan Band: Fans keep telling me this guy and his geeked-out backup singers are funny, but I have seen no evidence in their handful of appearances on Leno's 10 p.m. show.
The test pattern stage platform: Here's the thing, Jay; half the audience has never even seen a TV test pattern. Why date yourself with such an antiquated stage prop before you've even opened your mouth?
Here's what you do need: fresh jokes, a hint of cutting-edge controversy (involving someone besides yourself) and a sense of unpredictability. People need a sense than anything can happen on this show -- besides the "beer pong shot of the week" -- which they think they already know.