How'd Leno Fare in His First Week?
Monday: Coming off of the big news of the weekend with the Kanye West-Taylor Swift VMA debacle, Leno scored an accidental coup with Kanye as his already-planned musical guest. The awkward interview, in which Jay nearly brought Kanye to tears by asking him what the rapper's dead mother would have thought of his behavior, likely boosted the outrageously high ratings -- a stunning 18.4 million viewers.
Tuesday: By his second night, the new car scent began fading a bit. Leno's guests were Tom Cruise (in a new feature called 10 @ 10, where he interviews people via satellite), and Michael Moore plugging his latest movie. The reviews started to roll in. The Los Angeles Times review's opening line was scathing. "It's not a good sign when the Bud Light commercial is funnier than the comedy show it interrupts." No surprise then, that Jay lost seven million viewers on the second night.
Wednesday: E! Online asked, "Are Melrose Place, Leno Already Over?," citing Leno's drop in viewers. On Leno's third night, Robin Williams came on and talked. For the 10 @ 10 segment, Jay asked Miley Cyrus what time her curfew was. (Note to Hollywood producers: We would like to get paid millions of dollars to come up with questions like these. Ours will be better). Though we liked the Hamish and Andy "Ghosting" segment, that is a score for the booking agent, not Leno's writing team.
Thursday: The New York Times' Media Decoder blog post titled "A Winning Wednesday for NBC" might have jumped the gun in terms of optimism. With a lead-in from "America's Got Talent," Jay gained back three million more viewers. Still, that didn't keep The Philadephia Enquirer from dissing it: "The new Leno show, the first five-night-a-week prime-time broadcast show in TV history, seems little more than a warmed over (and not even as good) version of 'The Tonight Show.'" They might have a point: Outside of Halle Berry's revelation that she was not indeed pregnant, Leno had the scintillating Bruce Hornsby as the musical guest (though, it must be noted that Hornsby's guitarist was Eric freaking Clapton ... so bonus points there).
Friday: By Friday, the little bump Jay enjoyed on Wednesday had dissipated. On Thursday, TV By the Numbers noted that a repeat of 'The Mentalist' had beaten Jay. Not even Friday's bizarre 10 @ 10 interview with Mel Gibson could save the numbers from petering off to just under eight million. (Sample question: "What part of the body would you change: "I already got my tail removed. Maybe I'd get my brain removed.) That's more than a 50 percent ratings decrease from just four days earlier.
This week's guests? Some big-name movie stars like Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Garner, legendary but not-so-buzzworthy musicians like Smokey Robinson and some political figures. Thursday features Rush Limbaugh. Monday night's 10 @ 10 is with Barney Frank. Please, do not ask him what time his curfew is.
Jeff Kravitz, FilmMagic
Mark Von Holden, Getty Images
Nick Harvey, WireImage
Noel Vasquez, Getty Images
George Pimentel, WireImage
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