As a nod to the success of Leno's prior mult-year stint on The Tonight Show, the host and NBC did not veer dramatically away from the construct of that late-night talk show. Monologue? Check. Video clip? Check, including an " interview" with President Obama. Use of past Leno feature from Tonight Show? Check--"Headlines" made an appearance on show #1. Band with loyal sidekick? Check...Kevin Eubanks made the move to this new show with Jay.
Leno scored with opening night guest Jerry Seinfeld, who was funny and used a cute bit with Oprah Winfrey making a cameo appearance. And, Jay had musical guests Jay-Z, Rihanna and Kanye West performing together on night one--yes, the same Kanye West who took the microphone away from winner Taylor Swift the night before on MTV in order to deliver his "Beyonce had the the best video" speech. Leno turned it into an opportunity for West to apologize for his misdeed, thus scoring a "it can't get luckier than this" moment for the host with an opening night guest.
It's obvious that NBC plans to use this show to protect its 9:00 p.m. CT/10:00 p.m. ET time slot, i.e., place a tried-and-true, likable performer in that slot every night during the week. On night one, you'd have to say that Leno delivered by playing it safe...and, by serendipity, having the hottest story in pop culture on his show. It was a Hugh Grant-type moment for Jay.
(Editor's note: The Jay Leno Show delivered 18 million viewers last night for NBC--a large number for a weekday evening program.)