The Jay Leno Show, the much anticipated prime time entry from the former King of Late Night, premiered on NBC Monday night. Featuring guests Jerry Seinfeld and mic-stealing Kanye West, the show drew big numbers -- an estimated 17.7 million viewers.
Compare that to the 5 million who regularly watched his 11:30 p.m. show, and it appears Jay is a hit. But can he keep it up? Not according to most critics, who slammed the show as being more of the same old Jay. Here's a sample of what they're saying:
-- Robert Bianco, USA Today
Jay Leno's premiere 10 o'clock show last night was like a very good first date. But like many first dates, it didn't necessarily tell us where the relationship is going. Pretty much everything went right last night... Jay was Jay last night – hands in pockets, blue suit, solid monologue. Pleasant, likeable, funny, a guy you'd invite to your barbeque.
-- David Hinckley, New York Daily News
Sixteen minutes into the new "The Jay Leno Show," it was difficult not to panic. This is the future of television? This wasn't even a good rendition of television past. Clearly Leno believes that if it ain't broke, don't fix it, and he has been very vocal about the fact that his late-night talk show was not broke. So here it is again, different time slot, busier set and same old jokes. Literally.
--Mary McNamara, Los Angeles Times
Jay roared back with Kevin Eubanks and the band, like it was late night all over again. And unlike everyone else who does what he does, but often not as well, Jay returned with that smart and smartass mix of talent and controversy that separates the pros from the bores... Will 10 p.m. be the new 11:35? Stay tuned.
-- Linda Stasi, New York Post
So much attention -- and promotion -- has been spent deciphering the impact Mr. Leno’s 10 p.m. slot could have on prime-time programming, and so much ink has been devoted to describing how Mr. Leno’s new show would depart from his old one that it was startling to see how little difference there was.
-- Alessandra Stanley, The New York Times
"Jay Leno" remains the network equivalent of pulling punches. A show echoing late-night's established paradigm of monologue/funny segment/interviews/band/goodnight would be too staid for the primetime hour, where networks traditionally have installed their edgiest innovations. But five nights a week of "Jay Leno" presents a too-high risk factor to deviate too far from the norm -- and what's left is an unsettled sense that they're throwing things on the wall to see what sticks.
-- Randee Dawn, The Hollywood Reporter