Jay Leno returns to 'The Tonight Show': One weird night in late night

jamie-foxx-tonight-show.jpgThere was a full moon in the sky Monday night. What does that have to do with Jay Leno's return to "The Tonight Show"? Read on.

Leno began his second "Tonight Show" stint Monday (March 1), and it quickly became apparent that despite a new logo, new theme song and a revamped set, the new show was pretty much the same as the one Leno left last spring. After a solid, "Wizard of Oz"-themed cold opening with Betty White ("Wow, they really cut your budget," White noted about the Dorothy's house set. "Look at this ratty-a** barn"), Leno did an utterly Lenovian monologue with jokes about Dick Cheney, Wall Street, NBC's misfortune and "The Bachelor" (a piece of which is below) ...



At which point I decided to flip over to CBS and see how, or if, David Letterman was acknowledging his rival's return. I join Letterman in a rant about how NBC was being stingy with sharing clips of the Olympics and how he was trying to call in a favor from a friend: "He said OK. ... And I said, Great. And if you ever have another opening at 11:35, I'll come back."

Not exactly guns blazing there, so it's back to Leno for a bit where he goes door-to-door looking for a new desk (yawn) and the introduction of his first guest, Jamie Foxx. Foxx proceeds to play hype man for the host, engaging in some call-and-response with the studio audience, spraying Champagne on the crowd and a camera and generally refusing to sit still. When he knocks Leno's coffee cup off the desk while dancing, it's all a little too manic and I turn back to "The Late Show."

Where I'm greeted by the sight of Bill Murray in a green parka, furry hat, boots ... and shorts. Murray recently had to have knee surgery, and he asks Letterman to be the first to sign his cast. Except he's not wearing a cast, so Dave signs his leg.

So yeah -- how to explain this much strangeness on a night when, one would think, both hosts would want to be on their A-game? It's gotta be the full moon.

Back on "The Tonight Show," Foxx is talking about his "sacred" relationship with Kirstie Alley -- a reference to this clip from "Oprah" last week, in case you're wondering. That leads to a digression about his love of voluptuous women before eventually veering into talk about buying his daughter a car for her birthday.

The latter is pretty standard talk-show patter, so it's back to CBS -- where Murray has now removed his coat to reveal a shiny purple shirt trimmed with feathers. He and Letterman are talking about ice dancing, so I'm assuming the gag is Olympic-related. Letterman asks him about the rumors of "Ghostbusters 3" being made, to which Murray replies, "This is my nightmare. I told them if they kill me off in the first reel, I'll do it, so I think they figured out a way to kill me in the first reel. ... It's just crazy talk."

Fanboy buzz now harshed, I flip back to NBC to hear Leno talk to Olympic darling Lindsey Vonn, who's very sweet in recounting her downhill victory and the various injuries she suffered before and during the games. It's a perfectly fine interview -- except for the part where Leno asks if her husband Thomas Vonn's support and coaching extends to the bedroom. Ewww.

While Brad Paisley closes "The Tonight Show" with a solid rendition of his hit "American Saturday Night," I check in with "Jimmy Kimmel Live" -- and he's interviewing new "Dancing with the Stars" contestant Kate Gosselin, who's explaining how she can't dance, and how her soon-to-be-named partner will travel to Pennsylvania so she can rehearse and still spend time with the kids and how despite all that, she's going to win "DWTS" this spring.

"You're competitive?" Kimmel asks. "Have you watched my show?" Kate replies. She then refuses to play along as Kimmel shows photos of some of her fellow competitors, making for a very awkward bit and capping this evening of full-moon madness. Here's hoping everyone settles down a little soon.

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Photo credit: NBC
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