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The Jay Leno Show is an Americanmarker prime time television talk show created by and starring Jay Leno, which premiered on September 14, 2009 on NBC following the May 29, 2009 conclusion of Leno's tenure as host of The Tonight Show.


The Jay Leno Show airs weeknights at 10:00 p.m. ET/PT (9:00 p.m. CT/MT) from Studio 11 of the NBC Studios in Burbank, Californiamarker with the following format:
  • After brief opening credits, a monologue of eight to 12 minutes.
  • One celebrity guest, two at the most. The "car-themed" set adjusts to allow guests to get off the couch and participate in antics.
  • Musical segments appear only twice a week, in the middle of the show, and sometimes feature multiple acts performing together.
  • Comedy segments are reserved for the last 15 minutes of the show, the only portion of the show where Leno sometimes uses a desk. They include:

In addition to reserving comedy segments for the end, the network airs no commercials after the show and is "urging local affiliates to do the same" so local news can start immediately, retaining as many Leno viewers as possible.

First show

Jerry Seinfeld was the celebrity guest on the debut episode. Jay-Z, Rihanna, and Kanye West performed "Run This Town", in which all three are featured. West sat down for a previously unplanned interview with Leno, discussing West's outburst at the MTV Video Music Awards the previous night. Dan Finnerty was the comic correspondent for the night, and the end of the show featured Headlines.

Critical response

Reviews for the first show ranged from average to negative, with most critics stating that the show was, despite the changes, still very similar to Tonight. Metacritic scores it at 48 out of 100 based on 23 TV critic reviews, and viewers scoring it at a 4.0 out of 10. Media Life described the show as "underwhelming" and felt that Leno "failed to rise to the occasion." The Buffalo News called the show "a mess." The Associated Press noted that "it's not a good sign when the Bud Light commercial is funnier than the comedy show it interrupts," and that "at least Rosie Live took some chances."



Jay Leno, creator and host]]Leno has a contract for four years for the show. NBC reportedly has an option to cancel after two years, but has committed to at least one or two years regardless of ratings. He could earn up to $30 million each year depending on ratings for Leno, compared to a $20 million annual salary during his last years at Tonight.

NBC expects to benefit by offering an inexpensive comedic alternative to the procedurals ("100% more comedy and 98% fewer murders!") and other one-hour dramas that typically air at 10 pm, and by offering new episodes 46 weeks each year versus 22. While Leno may not be competitive with the higher-rated scripted shows on ABC and CBS in its time slot, its projected cost of production is far lower and thus it is expected to be profitable to the network, and product integration will make the show "as DVR-proof as you can be on television in this era". Each airing of Leno costs about $350,000 to $400,000 versus up to $3 million for an hour-long drama, saving NBC $13 million each week without the network needing the show to beat its competitors. Those costs include the services of 22 writers, whom Leno called the "top 5% of the highest-paid . . . in the Guild."

McDonald's became the first buying advertiser for the program. It featured its "Million Dollar Roll" on a segment. Leno also allegedly claimed that, "If nobody wins it, I keep it!" referring to the prize. He later shook hands with the crowd while bobbling his head.


Leno does not expect his show to beat competing first-run episodes, but to do better than rerun, in part because topical jokes benefit from the "immediacy" of the time slot versus 11:30 pm. A television analyst predicted that Leno would finish in "a safe third place" every night. NBC research before the show's debut indicated that fans of Leno would watch Leno two to three times a week.

NBC sees a 1.5 rating for the show in the 18–49 demographic as "viable" and a 1.8 as a "home run". NBC told Leno that at a 1.5 rating, NBC makes $300 million a year. Tonight at 11:30 pm earned about a 1.3 to 1.5; the television audience at 10 pm is 40% larger than at 11:30 pm, and the network hopes Leno's audience will also grow. Industry observers have cited a range of ratings, from 1.7 to 2, as being necessary for the show to succeed at 10 pm. By comparison, 2.5 is generally necessary for a 10 pm drama to succeed; those that earned a 1.7 or less during the 2008–2009 season were canceled. NBC's prime-time dramas averaged about 2 during 2008–2009.

The first episode of The Jay Leno Show earned "fast national" estimates of 17.7 million viewers, an 11 Nielsen rating (5.1 among persons 18–49) and an 18 share, significantly above both his Tonight finale and the debut of The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien in all categories. By the second week and competing against season premieres, the audience fell to six million viewers, still on par with or exceeding NBC projections.

As of November 1, 2009, The Jay Leno Show has averaged a 1.98 in the adults 18–49 ratings and 6.594 million viewers.

Though the show has been meeting the network's projections, it has been severely detrimental to the ratings of the late local news on NBC affiliates. Several stations across the country have seen what is known as the "Leno Effect", where the lower audience for Leno (as compared to NBC's scripted prime time offerings) is translating directly into severe audience drops for late local news (on the order of 25–30%).

Industry impact

NBC is the first large United States network to broadcast the same show every weekday during prime time since DuMont aired Captain Video and His Video Rangers from 1949 to 1955. Its executives called the decision "a transformational moment in the history of broadcasting" and "in effect, launching five shows." An industry observer said that Leno, "in all my years, is the biggest risk a network has ever taken." According to former NBC president Fred Silverman, "If the Leno Show works, it will be the most significant thing to happen in broadcast television in the last decade."

Although NBC has not developed a new hit show at 10 pm in years, industry executives criticized the network for abandoning a history of airing quality dramas at that hour such as Hill Street Blues, St. Elsewhere, and ER, which made NBC "the gold standard for sophisticated programming . . . the No. 1 network for affluent and well-educated young viewers" during the 1980s and 1990s. They predicted that the decision would hurt NBC by undermining a reputation built on successful scripted shows such as "L.A. Law, Hill Street Blues, The Cosby Show, ER, Friends and Seinfeld". According to the executives, the decision also hurts the entire television industry, both because the network airs fewer dramas and because Leno is not easily sold overseas or rerun.

Other networks believe NBC's decision has created an opportunity, and planned their 2009–2010 schedules accordingly. CBS's popular procedural The Mentalist, for example, competes with the show on Thursdays, joining fellow successes CSI: Miami, CSI: NY, and Numb3rs. If Leno survives, however, other networks may also schedule less-expensive shows, such as Nightline, for the hour as well.

Boycott by competing networks

Less than two months after the show premiered, Leno noted that ABC, CBS, and even several cable networks like Comedy Central and TNT were not allowing "their stars" to appear on his show. Julia Louis-Dreyfus was the first CBS actor to appear on the show, on September 29, 2009. She admitted "there was a little pressure" to skip her appearance on the show. Dreyfus said she chose to appear on Leno's show because of their relationship. “Obviously, I committed to doing your show and we’re friends”, she said. John Wells, the president of the Writers Guild of America, West, and executive producer of prominent NBC shows ER and The West Wing, said, "I wish NBC and Jay Leno well; personally, he's a very nice guy, but I hope he falls flat on his face and we get five dramas back." This boycott has not affected The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien nor is it industry-wide. Other TV networks, like Fox, The CW, and HBO, are "encouraging their talent to appear as guests on Leno's show." Hugh Laurie from the Fox TV show House was a guest on the September 25, 2009 telecast. However, House is produced by Universal Media Studios, a sister company to NBC, and Fox does not offer any programming in the 10 p.m. time slots and as such does not directly compete with Leno, although Laurie had said that may change next season.

On October 16, 2009, ABC lifted their boycott of the show, allowing Rachel Griffiths of Brothers & Sisters to be a guest on the show.

CBS, Comedy Central, and TNT still ban their stars from appearing on the show. However, Wanda Sykes of CBS The New Adventures of Old Christine, has appeared on the show more than once.

Other cable channels such as TBS (which has their own show in Lopez Tonight), MTV, VH1, Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, TLC, BET (which offers The Mo'Nique Show), Disney Channel, Nickelodeon, and ESPN ban their actors (and reporters in the case of ESPN) from appearing on Leno to help further reduce viewers of the show.


NBC announced in 2004 that Leno would leave Tonight in 2009, with Conan O'Brien as his replacement. Leno—who wanted to avoid an acrimonious transition like what he experienced when he inherited Tonight from Johnny Carson—said at the announcement, "You can do these things until they carry you out on a stretcher, or you can get out when you’re still doing good." He began to regret his decision to retire in 2007, and several networks and studios including ABC, Fox, Sony, and Tribune expressed interest in his services after leaving Tonight.

[[File:Jeff Zucker, CEO of NBC Universal.jpg|thumb|right|150px
Jeff Zucker, President and CEO of NBC Universal]]Jeff Zucker, President and CEO of NBC Universal, sought to keep Leno from defecting to a competitor. Leno rejected several NBC offers for daytime or cable slots, a series of recurring specials, and a half-hour show at 8 pm five nights a week featuring Leno's Tonight monologue. The network had in 1981 considered moving The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson to 10 pm; Zucker, who in 2007 offered Oprah Winfrey an hour five nights a week at 8 pm, now offered Leno an hour five nights a week at 10 pm. Leno was announced on December 9, 2008.

At least one station, WHDHmarker in Bostonmarker, Massachusettsmarker, stated that it would not carry the program, claiming that Leno would be detrimental to the station's 11 pm news and that it would instead launch a local news program in the time slot. NBC said that such plans would amount to a flagrant violation of the network contract—a claim which WHDH disputed—and said that it would immediately remove its programming from WHDH if the station followed through with the plan. WHDH backed down on April 13, 2009 and announced that it would air Leno instead of the proposed program.

Though Leno is the first to move the entire five-day-a-week late night talk show to prime time, he is not the first Tonight alumnus to move from late night to a prime time talk show. Steve Allen, the first host, left the show to concentrate on the Steve Allen Show on Sunday nights, as it was a higher priority for NBC. Jack Paar, who hosted Tonight from 1957 to 1962, next hosted a weekly talk show that ran until 1965.

Website dispute

In 2004, Guadalupe Zambrano, a Texas real estate agent, registered the domain name to redirect to his real estate business. After the Leno announcement, Leno accused Zambrano of cybersquatting. Zambrano contended that he had owned the domain for five years, well before the announcement, thus precluding recovery. The UDRP proceedings ruled in favor of Leno, however, stating that Zambrano profited from the value of the Jay Leno trademark in bad faith.

International broadcasting

See also


External links

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