NBC’s great Jay Leno experiment came to an end last night. It didn’t go out with a bang, or with a whimper. Rather, ‘The Jay Leno Show‘ sort of faded into the background, an afterthought for television history. And that was the point.
Leno’s opening monologue only briefly lingered on the unavoidable fact of his show’s failure. Greeted by a bevy of applause, Leno replied, “Where were you the last five months,” before insisting that what was meant to be a two-year “sentence” had been reduced to five months for “good behavior.”
Conan O’Brien no doubt thinks otherwise, but never mind. Leno also quipped, “it seems like just yesterday I was telling NBC ‘this won’t work.’” He also offered a “look back” at his show’s brief life and joked that he “should have known this should wouldn’t last,” before showing his “parking spot” with an expiration date. Leno may have been shooting for self-effacing, but his take came across more as self-congratulatory. The bit ended with a gag about Jay officially being fired from prime-time.
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Perhaps the best line on the subject, however, came from Leno’s first guest, Ashton Kutcher, who insisted ‘The Jay Leno Show’ was his idea, a punk, or prank. The conversation then turned to football, and one almost forgot that it was Leno’s last show.
‘Precious’ star Gabourey Sidibe also spent some time with Leno, and the couple kept the conversation within the realm of Hollywood. The show ended with ‘The Jay Leno Show’s’ [patented] 10@10 segment and featured the sportscaster Bob Costas. Again, the talk revolved around relatively innocuous topics, like the Winter Olympics, which begin this week. The only reference in that bit came at the end, when Leno pointed out that Costas was the last 10@10 guest, which Costas equated with “the last broadcast of a Clippers’ season.”
Perhaps the most telling part of the entire show came within the last split second, when Leno was signing off and suddenly New York’s local news came on, cutting off his last sentence. And that was the end of ‘The Jay Leno Show. It was, actually, quite perfect.