Jay Leno is "certainly ready for prime time," said Paige Wiser in the Chicago Sun-Times. The former Tonight Show host returned to television Monday night at 10 p.m. with The Jay Leno Show, "and there he was, old reliable, slapping the hands of audience members and making jokes about George W. Bush on a mountain bike—it was almost like he never left." Leno's new venture deserves "a firm pat on the back" (watch The Jay Leno Show debut in its entirety).
"Nobody makes it seem as though everything's hunky-dory better than Leno," said Hank Steuver in The Washington Post, and his jokes during the debut were exactly what you'd expect—perfectly safe. Leno "adheres to the center of the exact middle road, so it's wrong to expect a revolution here." And let's be honest: "Who won't watch Jay when nothing else is on, or when the nurse won't come change the channel?"
"With all eyes on Leno, this is the best he, and his writers, and the struggling network could come up with?" said Mary McNamara in the Los Angeles Times. The debut of The Jay Leno Show was a "strange, shallow puddle of comedy," from Jerry Seinfeld's "tuxedoed" appearance (watch), to the presence of Kanye West (watch), to "a flatly bizarre musical car wash skit" featuring Dan Finnerty. So here's Leno "again, different time slot, busier set, and same old jokes. Literally."