In the weeks leading up to the premiere of the Jay Leno Show, entertainment writers split into two groups:
- Those who thought the new, earlier program would pull in viewers by the droves, thereby saving NBC and revolutionizing television as we know it
- More probably, it would bomb catastrophically, sinking everyone involved into the purgatory of irrelevance.
- Anything Short of Failure is a Victory for NBC, according to James Hibberd, the blogger behind The Live Feed. Hibberd cites the astounding tracking numbers for the premiere: 18.4 million viewers, saying that while that alone doesn't guarantee the show's viability, it is a very good sign for the 4th place network: "Leno's premiere matters -- though it matters far more for one outcome than it did for the other...A crash out of the gate could also have put a stigma around the show that could have impacted critics, public perception, booking guests and advertising."
- The Same As It Ever Was "After the first viewing, the 'shake up' is more like how you shake up a snow globe – when everything settles, all the parts are the same, just in a different place," quips Steve Krakauer at Mediaite. He rounds up the numerous like-minded reviews before concluding that he found the quality of the show to be decent- not great, but watchable.
- Insufferable Defamer's Brian Moylan didn't like one bit, not even Kanye West's apparently sincere apology to Taylor Swift: "This first episode was Leno's chance to shine, when he should have gotten out his best material and the funniest segments that he's been compiling for months. Instead, the best thing about it was another comedian and an apology that he lucked into. We don't know how this experiment is going to last through the month, nonetheless another year."
- Off-Target Taking a less scathing but equally downcast review is Jazz Shaw of the Moderate Voice. "With full apologies to the Leno faithful, I didn’t think Jay was on his game and the format and crew have problems. Leno seemed kind of unsure of himself, amazingly, during the opening monologue which was little more than a series of cheap, easy shots at the current media whipping boys and girls... I don’t think it looks promising."
- Shows Potential At Slate, Troy Patterson mostly agrees with those who find the new program to be just another version of the Tonight Show at an earlier time, although he does take special delight in Leno's decision to question his misbegotten musical guest: "The notion of Leno running some combination of pop-culture confessional booth and prime-time torture chamber has some real appeal." Jeff Bercovici of Daily Finance concurs: “It wasn't funny, but at least it was interesting”