NEW YORK - No worries, no surprises. It's the same comfortable Jay Leno. Typical Jay Leno, just on a plusher scale. Pleasant. Affable. Even funny.
And, as promised, earlier than the "Tonight Show" where Jay presided for 17 years. That was the takeaway from Monday's premiere of "The Jay Leno Show," now airing at 10 p.m. EDT every weeknight - before the local news, not after it, when, you know, the new "Tonight Show" with Conan O'Brien comes on.
The new, earlier Leno began with a bluesy theme song and Leno's entrance into a cavernous studio where a scrum of adoring audience members greeted him at the edge of his stage. To his left was Kevin Eubanks and the Primetime Band.
It seemed reassuringly familiar.
"I've been off the air for three months," Leno noted. "Or, as most people in Hollywood call that, rehab."
A stylistically familiar Leno monologue unfolded. (He cited a new survey that found "50 per cent of women wish their men would take control in bed. The other 50 per cent just wish their men would put down the remote control.")
The night's big draw, of course, was Kanye West, whose on-air rudeness Sunday toward country singer Taylor Swift at the MTV Video Music Awards had made him Pop Culture Topic No. 1.
But before he arrived to perform with fellow musical guests Jay-Z and Rihanna, there was more comedy in store.
Leno introduced Dan Finnerty, one of a league of young comics who will make recurring appearances.
In a pretaped piece at a local car wash, Finnerty offered a bemused young woman "a free entertainment package" while her car was being spruced up. He serenaded her animatedly to the accompaniment of a boom box toted by his two-man Dan Band.
It was funnier than it sounds, but didn't shine.
Then, in matching wing chairs, Leno chatted with a tuxedo-clad Jerry Seinfeld, who called himself "the first guest on your I-guess-I-didn't-get-fired-again-by-NBC program."
Seinfeld pretended to demonstrate his show-biz clout by summoning Oprah Winfrey (seen on a monitor), whom he briefly interviewed while Leno sat by excluded. Seinfeld then jokingly announced his own new talk show, "coming on at 9 on NBC."
Leno had a parody "interview" with President Barack Obama, intercutting his mock questions with Obama's "replies."
Asking Obama about his love life, Leno inquired, "You ever think of filling the White House pool with those floaty candles like they do on that Viagra commercial?"
Obama's inserted answer: "What I would be willing to do is consider any ideas out there that would actually work."
"It works," Leno grinned.
Before the night's musical number, Jay returned to the wing chairs where Kanye West unburdened himself for his bad behaviour toward VMA winner Swift.
Referring to how he had intruded on her acceptance remarks, West told Leno, "It was rude, period."
The final moments of the broadcast were given over to a Leno staple from his "Tonight Show" days - the "Headlines" feature.
One newspaper headline declared "Pollution Threatens to Kill the Dead Sea." And Leno chortled at a menu for a Chinese restaurant named Hung Far Low.
Then it was over, which signalled, for better or worse, the biggest difference between Leno's new show and his old one: With his fade-out at 11 p.m., the local news began.
NBC is owned by General Electric.
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