Picks and Pans Review: The Tonight Show with Jay Leno
Don't believe the hype, friends. Though NBC marked the 10th anniversary of Jay Leno's Tonight Show with a prime-time special on April 30, Leno actually succeeded Johnny Carson on May 25,1992. I decided to celebrate prematurely by watching a week's worth of Leno early this month, and what I saw was almost entirely unsurprising. Come to think of it, his very predictability—many would call it reliability—may explain why Leno is the late-night ratings leader. There's a sense of ritual here, starting with the pseudohearty handshakes for fans who dutifully rush the stage.
Naturally, Leno's monologues offered Robert Blake jokes in abundance. What else would you expect from the man who found his comedy mother lode in the murder case against O.J. Simpson? Likewise the host was all over the hot topic of pedophile priests, professing to find the scandal "too creepy" while making one tasteless crack after another. I give him credit, though, for dubbing the Boston prelate "Cardinal Bernard Above the Law." and I recognize that topical humor always will be Leno's forte—even when he oversells his material by repeating the punch lines. I was hoping he'd shorten the May 3 monologue and get to his sole guest, Paul McCartney. But a little way into the superficial interview (on the subject of touring: "Is it as much fun as it always is?"), I was dying for more stand-up.
Bottom Line: We know the routine