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New Leno Show is Cure for Insomnia

Bet NBC wishes Kanye could do Jay every day.

Because without Kanye West, and his conveniently timed controversy from the MTV Video Music Awards, NBC's Jay Leno Show premiere Monday would have been even more of a cut-rate, snooze-inducing, rehashed bore. If Leno's desire is to help fans get to sleep earlier, desire satisfied.

West was only supposed to sing. The planned interview segment was devoted to Jerry Seinfeld - who, in the sprit of late-night talk, pretty much did a stand-up routine barely disguised as a conversation, mixed with plugs for his latest project.

But West, Leno said, wanted to speak to him about his MTV decision to interrupt Taylor Swift's acceptance speech, and Leno wisely complied. It was hardly a probing interview (though he did make West pause by invoking his mother). But at least West gave Leno something fresh to talk about, a welcome relief on a show where almost every other moment seemed frozen in amber.

And that's the main problem with Leno. It's a new business idea, an attempt to provide cheap, alternative programming five nights a week in a 10 p.m. slot the network was probably going to lose anyway. But creatively, there wasn't an original thought to be found, which is what happens when your only goal is to fail less expensively.

Leno had promised his new show would not be the same as the old one, but it looked awfully similar. If you found Leno's routine amusing before, you probably found it amusing Monday night. And given his propensity for repeating jokes, you'll probably find it amusing Tuesday night as well.

Curiosity and lack of first-week competition will doubtlessly make Leno an instant hit. If it remains a hit, fine: That means NBC is providing a product viewers wanted. And if it fails, well, that's fine too, particularly if it finally forces GE to hold current management accountable for the destruction of a once great American broadcasting company. Either way, we'll see what a difference a Jay makes.

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