Tag Archives: Jay Leno

To the letter

david lettermanHere’s to you, David Letterman —

The late night host of my generation.

Sure, I’m old enough to remember Johnny Carson.  I was even old enough to be indignant when Johnny chose Jay Leno to take over his desk instead of Dave when he retired.

‘Cause Dave was the new guard…and Jay was just more of the same.

Dave threw things off of the top of tall buildings just to watch them explode. Dave made celebrities out of the neighborhood deli employees long before Jimmy Kimmel made his parking attendant Guillermo a star. Dave was surly and controversial and random (well, before he had a child).

He made it okay for late night hosts to be unique and adventurous.

That’s why his future replacement should honor his philosophy — already does, in fact, by blowing up the idea of what a late night show should be every single night:

Craig-Ferguson-Doctor-Who Yes, you heard me right.

Craig Ferguson

And if he keeps the show here in New York City, I will be very, very, very excited.

Very. Excited.





Johnny on the spot

For someone who doesn’t stay up all that late, I spend a lot of time watching late night television — about three or more hours each day, thanks to my DVR.

I should really be thanking Johnny Carson.

After all, he created the late night genre as we know it. All the current late night hosts have cited Carson as a major influence.

None of them are Carson, but they all have little pieces of him in their repertoire.

Jimmy Fallon has his joy.  David Letterman his creativity.  Conan his self-doubt.  Craig Ferguson his dirty mind.  And Jay Leno?

Well, Jay Leno just has his time slot.

It’s hard to believe that it was 19 years ago today that Carson signed off after hosting the Tonight Show for 30 years:

And so it has come to this: I, uh — am one of the lucky people in the world; I found something I always wanted to do, and I have enjoyed every single minute of it.

I want to thank the gentlemen who’ve shared this stage with me for thirty years, Mr. Ed McMahon — Mr. Doc Severinsen — and — you people watching, I can only tell you that it has been an honor and a privilege to come into your homes all these years and entertain you — and I hope when I find something that I want to do, and I think you would like, and come back, that you’ll be as gracious in inviting me into your home as you have been.

I bid you a very heartfelt good night.

Comedy pays?

TBS sports the slogan “very funny.”

But I’m afraid, after they finish promoting the premiere of Conan’s O’Brien’s new show on November 8th, it might be “very Chapter 11.”

I’ve never really worried about a network before…but I worry about TBS.  They seem like such a small group of underdogs.  When they initially adopted the “very funny” slogan, it was more aspirational than point of fact.

And now, with “Conan” on their lineup, battling it out with David and Jay (albeit with a half-hour head start), they’re spending the big bucks to make sure this late night venture is a success.

Or, at the very least, lasts more than six months.

Conan’s got a blimp — have you seen it?  It’s big and orange and inflated like his head.  Since I follow Team CoCo on Facebook, I get what seems like hourly tweets updating me on the blimp’s location…and the sucker’s all over the place.

Conan’s doing lots of promos on TV, of course, and I even saw an ad at the movie theater where he washes his desk a la wet t-shirt contest.  It’s all creative and funny and original and makes me look forward to the show even more.

I just hope there are millions of other people just like me.  For Conan’s sake.

And TBS.

Aim higher

Jimmy Fallon is hosting this year’s Emmy Awards?  Really?

Has Neil Patrick Harris died?  Is Hugh Jackman on walkabout in Australia?  Have Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin had a falling out?

I mean, Jimmy’s a great guy, and he’s done some funny pieces for his late night show (the “Lost” parody and “Robert is Bothered” to name a few).  But hosting the Emmys?  Have you seen his opening monologues?  The dude is a joke reader, not a comedian.

Last year we had the multi-talented, host extraordinaire Neil Patrick Harris.  This year, we get the stripped-down, laughs at his own jokes, ain’t-ready-for-this-by-no-stretch-of-the-imagination Jimmy Fallon.

The Leno effect strikes again.

That’s right — the Leno effect.  The play-it-safe, middle-of-the-road, celebration of mediocrity-over-humor that Jay Leno has perpetuated in this country.  The ‘less offensive is more desirable than creative’ choice.

We saw how well that worked out at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, now, didn’t we?  (I’ll shut up.)

Thank goodness the Golden Globes had the balls to book Ricky Gervais as its host for the second year in a row.  Of course, they are the Hollywood Foreign Press.  Perhaps they are immune…or have a vaccine.

Lucky aliens.

Funny or die

Congratulations, Team CoCo!

You were the clear winner at the White House Coorespondents’ Dinner last night.  (And Conan wasn’t even invited.)

Yep, even though Jay Leno had the honor of hosting the prestigious annual D.C. event, he proved — once again — that while he may be the safe choice, he certainly isn’t the funny one.

In fact, the critics agree that President Barack Obama had much better timing and material.

Adam Sorensen, reporting on the event for Time, said Leno “started at top speed, rushed his lines, seemed too tied to his notes (no Tonight Show teleprompter) and made little effort to connect with the crowd in any real sense.”  He even called his jokes “pedestrian.”


That’s especially tough criticism for a veteran stand-up comedian.  It’s not like Leno doesn’t have practice.  Seventeen years at “The Tonight Show.”  Five nights a week.

But the truth is, Leno isn’t known for being funny; he’s known for being mediocre.  And last night, he wasn’t facing a half-asleep, middle-American audience.  Some of the smartest people in the country were in that room…and they didn’t laugh at his usual swill.

That’s one death on stage I would have liked to see in person.


There are a lot of wrongs in the world of entertainment.

– The Oscar going to the film or actor who runs the smartest campaign vs. the film or actor who is most deserving.

– Jay Leno returning to “The Tonight Show” after almost single-handedly running NBC into the ground.  (Oh wait, he had help from Jeff Zucker.  Good point.)

– “American Idol” torturing us with weeks of painful auditions.  Just get to the competition already, and let America decide!

But I digress…

Today I do not complain; I only celebrate.  For two great rights have occurred in the entertainment industry.

First, “Modern Family” won Best New Series at the Writers Guild of America TV Awards.

Sure, “30 Rock” and “Mad Men” won “Best Comedy” and “Best Drama” as expected, but seeing the brilliant “Modern Family” get the recognition it deserves bodes well for the years to come.  “30 Rock” may finally have some real competition in this category.

I couldn’t be more happy.

More good news for followers of Twitter’s “Shit My Dad Says.”  It’s being developed for television, and who has been cast as My Dad?

None other than William Shatner.

I would guess he was at the top of the casting wish list, and I can’t think of a better self-effacing comedic actor to do justice to this crazed persona.

See?  Sometimes entertainment gets it right.

(I assume Jeff Zucker wasn’t involved…)

Staying power

I have decided the lack of sunshine in California has confused the entertainment community.

Jay Leno won’t go home…and Rob Lowe won’t stay.

Just when he was riding high again in the popular TV drama “Brothers & Sisters,” Lowe has decided to leave the show because he feels he is being ‘underused.’  Parent network ABC let him go, but is keeping him around to possibly anchor his own show in the future.

Where have I heard that before….?

Yes, it has shades of Leno in it.  But it also has shades of Lowe.

Remember Rob Lowe as earnest White House speech writer Sam Seaborn on “The West Wing?”  Even though it was structured as an ensemble drama, Lowe’s character was initially intended to be the show’s center, and President Jed Bartlet, portrayed by Martin Sheen, very much in the background.  In fact, Sheen’s initial contract was only written for four episodes.

But I think we all know what happened there.

A show about the West Wing of the White House — with Martin Sheen as POTUS — rotates around that central figure…and not the assistant communications director.  So after four seasons, Lowe left the show to anchor his own series.

It was called “Dr. Vegas.”  It lasted 10 episodes.  Oh — and Lowe was offered the part of McDreamy on “Grey’s Anatomy,” but he turned it down because he didn’t want to do another ensemble drama. Hmmm.

So, Rob — I know it’s raining.  I know the light has dimmed.  But try to see the pattern that you’ve fallen into…

Yet again.

The hook

Comedy requires an innate sense of timing.

So you’d think — by now — Jay Leno — former comedian, current leper — would know that he has seriously missed his cue.  Needs to go.  Couldn’t be less welcome if he had let chili farts in one of the tiny, egg-shaped elevators at the St. Louis Arch.  (Sorry — a couple of personal scars crept into that last illusion.)

NBC asked you to leave, Jay.  And, I’ll admit, they pussied out at the end.  Took one look at that huge, tremblin’ jaw of yours, and just couldn’t do it.  So you stayed, and your new show failed so horrendously in primetime, it pretty much took down the whole network with it.  The affiliate stations, too.  I hear peacocks are endangered now. Live with that.

And tonight, Conan and his staff and his fans become your lastest victims.  To make room for you yet again.  Because apparently, at NBC, there is nothing they like better than a big, fat failure.

You’re a perfect match.

I can only hope that the same audience that found your tired, lame comedy lacking in primetime will reject your recycled “Tonight Show” when you return to late night.  And, more importantly, they will say no to your lack of integrity, your lack of fair play, and your serious lack of timing.

There’s nothing funny about what you did.  There’s nothing funny about what you do.

Go home, Jay.

Leno effect

I would never wish ill on anyone or any endeavor, but…

NBC is getting what they deserve.

They tried to go cheap.  They pulled the pricey scripted programs that typically have filled out their schedule from 10-11pm and played the talk show card instead.  It’s really not that different from reality programming… NBC’s ‘hook’ (Leno) just wasn’t very original.

Since the premiere of “The Jay Leno Show” in primetime four weeks ago, nightly viewership has dropped from his debut of 12 million to roughly half that at 5.6 million nightly.

As a point of comparison, that’s about one-third of the viewers that NBC was able to attract last year with its schedule of dramas from 10-11pm.

And the network numbers aren’t the only ones that are hurting.  The NBC affiliates nightly news programs, which immediately follow Leno’s supposed laugh fest, are also suffering.  Baltimore, Kansas City, and even Jay’s hometown of Boston are reporting lower numbers…and they aren’t too happy about it.

As you may recall, the general manager of WHDH in Boston originally didn’t want to take Leno’s show at all, but changed his mind after NBC threatened to pull their affiliate status.  Turns out his instincts were spot on.

And NBC’s instincts?  Not so good.

Rumor has it that Comcast is going to acquire NBC Universal and will dump Leno well before the previously agreed upon 12 months.

Sounds like good business to me.

Sell this

File this under “TV shows I should be starring in based on scripts I should have written inspired by books I should have penned…”

Sellevision,” a half-hour sitcom based on the book by Augusten Burroughs (of Running with Scissors fame) is in the works at NBC.

(That’s right — NBC!  They’re working on a scripted comedy for a change.  Good network.  Good boy.)

First of all, I’m not sure how this book got written without me.  It’s about home shopping, a concept that I discovered in its infancy in the mid-8o’s.  I was one of the early predictors of its success back when the show hosts were ridiculous, the products laughable, and the sets trailer park chic.

I still remember the first day I saw CVN (now QVC) on television.  I was stuck at home with the flu, running a 103 degree temperature, and this woman was trying to sell these jacuzzi jets that you put into your bathtub to make it bubble.  (I thought my fever was causing hallucinations.)

But I could still see the potential through the haze of my humidifier.  With the right products — I mean, now QVC is partnering with major brands — and solid marketing and salesmanship, home shopping is now a multi-billion dollar industry.  Heck, QVC’s website alone drives millions of dollars in sales each year.  They are practically printing money in West Chester, Pennsylvania.

But alas, I didn’t write a book.

Augusten Burroughs did.  He wrote “Sellevision” while he was getting sober.  He didn’t let sickness stop him.  He said it was the first thing to make him laugh in a long time.   Now he has a novel and a sitcom deal, and he’s laughing all the way to the bank.

Me? I have my health….and a membership in good standing with QVC.