Leno returned to 11:35 p.m. with a new theme song (a re-worked, uptempo version of his old “Tonight Show” opener) and a renovated set.
Otherwise, the host’s familiar formula was there: Audience members racing to shake hands and high-five Leno at the open; a current events-themed monologue; guest spots from an overly hyper Jamie Foxx and Olympic Gold Medalist Lindsey Vonn; and a musical number from country star Brad Paisley.
Leno made a few references to his “Tonight Show” return, starting with a cold open that acknowledged his segue back into late night — although it wasn’t the “Dallas”-inspired “it was all a dream” clip that many had expected.
Instead, Leno went with a riff on the equally famous “I had the strangest dream” moment from “The Wizard of Oz.” Appearing with Leno in the brief sketch: Woman of the moment Betty White.
“It’s good to be home,” Leno said, kicking off his monologue. “I’m Jay Leno, your host… at least for a while.”
And during the show’s second segment, a pre-taped package depicted Leno’s search for his old desk (an element that had been removed from his primetime “Jay Leno Show” set).
The host made a few other references to the lingering fallout from NBC’s Late Night Crisis Circa January 2010 — but mostly stuck to hosting “The Tonight Show” as if he’d never left.
“I’ve got to admit that I’m a little nervous,” he said. “Not because it’s my first night back. Because I know Dave and Oprah are watching.”
Meanwhile, among other changes on Leno’s “Tonight Show 2.0,” the host has also now forgone any on-camera announcer (like former “Tonight Show” voices John Melendez and Edd Hall), instead going with a faceless voice, much like “The Jay Leno Show” did.
Also gone were “The Jay Leno Show” set’s glass doors, as well as its number “10” references (which had been a nod to the primetime strip’s 10 p.m. timeslot).
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