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Talk-show tango Sept. 14-18: Jay Leno’s back at 10 p.m. ET tonight

In television on 09/14/2009 at 1:28 am

(Tired of all this Jay Leno business? The regular listings are below. Just keep scrolling…)

I gotta start by saying I don’t get the appeal of Jay Leno. Yes, as I’ve read in a thousand articles in papers, magazines and online over the past few months, I can well believe that former Tonight Show host Jay Leno is a really nice guy. Conducted himself nicely as a guest on Real Time with Bill Maher a few weeks back. Hell, in the olden days when I was a Professional TV Critic (TM), I even met the guy. Shook my hand. Solid. But as a host? Ain’t my cup of tea. However, his prime-time variety show debut this week, running Monday to Friday at 10  p.m. ET, demands a little attention and some worry.

What’ll it be? The Jay Leno Show will have a monologue, guests, music (but not every night), occasional reports from D.L. Hughley and other correspondents, and then regular features like Jay Walking and small-town newspaper headline boners. Pretty familiar stuff.

So what’s the bigger picture? NBC gave Leno this prime-time slot for two reasons: 1. They didn’t want Leno, who departed the Tonight Show to make room for Conan O’Brien, to jump to another network. And 2., they are happy to be filling the 10 p.m. ET slot with a show that costs a fraction of what it costs for a season of drama.

What happens if Leno is successful? Well, he won’t beat the ratings giants like CSI, CSI: Miami and The Mentalist, but if he gets a few million viewers, that’s probably enough success for NBC to stay the course.

And then what? That’s where I get nervous. Don’t get me wrong. I grew up on TV variety shows, hosted by the likes of Carol Burnett, Red Skelton, Jackie Gleason, Dean Martin, Mike Douglas, Dina Shore, Sonny and Cher, Hudson Brothers… I could go all day. I loved these shows, their guests, the music, their skits. If Leno succeeds, and there are  more variety shows, that wouldn’t be the end of the world and might make the TV world a nicer place. But what about TV drama. Can I live without five new dramas on NBC? Definitely. But if other networks follow the Leno example — and as you might have noticed, networks are quite sheeplike — what then? Suddenly no 10 p.m. dramas? Sure, the U.S. cable networks have proven their reliability, even superiority, at producing excellent drama, but that’s a fraction of the TV drama menu, my TV drama menu.

That’s a lot of doom and gloom, I know. And besides, NBC keeps telling us in the dawn-to-dusk promos that it’s all about comedy. So I’ll just go brew some camomile tea. Although, you might do well to read Jamie Ponoewozik’s excellent look at the situation in his Time Magazine cover story: Jay Leno Is the Future of Television. Seriously! As for watching the new Jay Leno Show, I guess I will, out of curiousity, like many others. I know I won’t make it a habit. But it’s the rest of you I’m worried about.

LATE NIGHT

Late Show with David Letterman (11:35 p.m. ET on CBS and E!)

Monday: Adam Sandler, Cage the Elephant (R)

Tuesday: Anne Heche (Hung), Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory), Care Bears on Fire (R)

Wednesday: Billy Crystal, John Fogerty (R)

Thursday: Ken Burns (The National Parks), Mike Myers (Inglourious Basterds) (R)

Friday: Renee Zellweger (My One and Only), Gary Mule Deer (R)

The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson (12:35 a.m. ET on CBS and E!)

Monday: Juliette Lewis, Alex O’Loughlin (Three Rivers) (R)

Tuesday: Neil Patrick Harris (Emmys) (R)

Wednesday: Danny DeVito (R)

Thursday: Audrey Tautou, Ron Livingston (R)

Friday: Drew Carey (R)

The Jay Leno Show (10 p.m. ET on NBC)

Monday: Jerry Seinfled, Jay-Z, Rihanna, Kanye West

Tuesday: Tom Cruise

Wednesday: Robin Williams, Miley Cyrus

Thursday: Halle Berry, Bruce Hornsby, Eric Clapton

Friday: Drew Barrymore

Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien (11:35 p.m. ET on NBC)

Monday: Charlize Theron, stuntman Steven Ho, Dave Matthews Band

Tuesday: Jennifer Aniston, Melanie Oudin, Phoenix

Wednesday: Aaron Eckhart, Michael Strahan, Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Thursday: Megan Fox, Louis CK, America’s Got Talent winner

Friday: Courteney Cox, Ted Danson, Nelly Furtado

Late Night with Jimmy Fallon (12:35 a.m. ET on NBC)

Monday: John McCain, Miranda Cosgrove, Rufus Wainwright

Tuesday: Anna Faris, Alan Cumming, Ghostface

Wednesday: Charlize Theron, David Boreanaz

Thursday: Dennis Quaid, Elisabeth Moss, Megadeth

Friday: Danny DeVito, James Blake, Keri Hilson

Jimmy Kimmel Live (12:05 a.m. ET on ABC)

Monday: Gerard Butler (Gamer), Nate Berkus, Maxwell (R)

Tuesday: Eva Longoria Parker (Desperate Hosuewives, ALMA Awards), Kelly Clarkson, Matt Damon and Joel McHale

Wednesday: David Alan Grier (Barack Like Me: The Chocolate-Covered Truth), Pink

Thursday: Jenna Elfman (Accidentally on Purpose), Danny Pudi (Community), Kid Cudi

Friday: Christian Slater (The Forgotten), Ed O’Neill (Modern Family), Sofia Vergara (Modern Family)

Chelsea Lately (12:35 a.m. ET on E!)

Monday: tba

Tuesday:

Wednesday:

Thursday:

Friday:

Daily Show with Jon Stewart (11 p.m. Comedy Network, midnight ET, CTV)

Monday: LeBron James

Tuesday: Matt Damon (The Informant)

Wednesday: Ricky Gervais (The Invention of Lying)

Thursday: tba

The Colbert Report (11:30 p.m. Comedy Network, 12:30 a.m. ET, CTV)

Monday: Cory Booker, Newark mayor

Tuesday: Christiane Amanpour

Wednesday: The Flaming Lips

Thursday: Frank Bruni

The Hour (11 p.m. ET, CBC)

Monday: tba

Tuesday:

Wednesday:

Thursday:

Friday:

Charlie Rose (11:30 p.m. ET, PBS)

Mr. Rose announces his guests only on the day of broadcast, so please click on the show-name link above for the most recent guest announcement.

Real Time with Bill Maher (11 p.m. ET, Fridays only, on HBO Canada)

Friday: tba

DAYTIME

Live with Regis and Kelly (9 a.m. ET, NBC and CTV)

Monday: tba

Tuesday:

Wednesday:

Thursday:

Friday:

The View 11 a.m. ET, ABC and CTV)

Monday: Kate Gosselin co-hosts, Victoria Beckham, Dr. Oz

Tuesday: Kate Gosselin co-hosts, Dr. Phil, Taylor Swift

Wednesday: LaToya Jackson co-hosts, Amy Poehler (Parks & Recreation)

Thursday: Charlize Theron, Joel McHale (Community)

Friday: LaToya Jackson co-hosts, Kathy Griffin (My Life on the D-List), Rachel Zoe (Rachel Zoe Project)

The Bonnie Hunt Show (2 p.m. ET on Citytv and NBC)

Monday: Danny DeVito (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia)(, Dave Salmoni (Into the Pride)

Tuesday: Reba McEntire (Keep on Loving You), Househusbands of Hollywood, Wendy Liebman

Wednesday: Bill Hader (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs), Smokey Robinson

Thursday: Nia Vardalos (Drop Dead Diva), Jesse Metcalf (Beyond a Reasonable Doubt), Cory Williams (Mean Kitty)

Friday: Dennis Quaid (Pandorum), Miranda Cosgrove (iCarly/Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs), Jeff (Big Brother)

The Ellen DeGeneres Show (4 p.m. ET, CBC)

Monday: Sharon Osbourne, Rumer Willis

Tuesday: Queen Latifah

Wednesday: Jennifer Aniston, Dave Matthews Band

Thursday: Ted Danson, Anna Torv, Maxwell

Friday: Neil Patrick Harris, Anna Faris, Colbie Caillat

Oprah 4 p.m. (NBC and CTV)

Monday: Whitney Houston

Tuesday: Whitney Houston Part Deux

Wednesday: Remembering Michael Jackson

Thursday: Dr. Phil Returns with the daughter of the Happy Face Killer

Friday: Oprah in New York with Mariah Carey, Regis and Kelly and the book club announcement

The Tyra Show (10 a.m. ET on ABC)

Monday: Sixteen and Stripping

Tuesday: Biracial People Who Hate One Side of Themselves

Wednesday: Is Your Sex Life Normal

Thursday: Do It Yourself Plastic Surgery

Friday: High School Hazing

— Denise Duguay

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