Heard the other day that Jay Leno’s prime time show is being mercifully laid to rest. That’s hardly surprising, since it is hard to imagine a worse prime time show. Letterman had better guests, better bits and, with the exception of Letterman himself, a better show in late night than Leno had in prime time. The majority of the show was filler and, with two exceptions, bad filler. Monday night headlines (very funny) and anything with Ross the intern (he was so obviously having a good time it was impossible to watch him without having a good time, too) were watchable. The rest, from the agonizing long applause in the beginning, to celebrities answering dumb trivia questions to “earn you plug” to racing a stupid electric car, to unfunny bits that looked like Saturday Night Live rejects pained the eyes and ears.
The shame is that one could easily put together a terrific prime time show. Cut the applause at least in half. Get in, get on with it. Monologue, good bit like the headlines or Ross, major guest (Tom Cruise, Carlos Santana, Carol Burnett), second guest (just about anyone he actually had on as his first guest), performance spotlight (major acts or new talents, comedians and singers preferred), and out. Some guests are automatic — Miss America, Idol Winner, Dancing with the Stars winner, World Series MVP, Super Bowl MVP, etc., etc. Others could be part of shows or weeks built around events — Academy Awards Week, Grammy Week, etc. Don’t have enough star guests? Look elsewhere — politicians, sports figures (including sportscasters), businesspeople (Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Donald Trump), singers, comedians, etc. A good booker could find 250 true celebs a year. You can do 10 at 10 in any of the slots, but only if you eliminate the 2 1/2 second lag (if CNN and ESPN can do it, I’m sure NBC can figure it out). Lose the filler. Bring back the couch and the desk for crying out loud. Don’t try to fix a format that’s not broken. Easy.
Or, at least that’s what I’d do. If you were going to put together a prime time variety/talk show, what would you do?