Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Nostalgia and the Writers' Strike

The film and television industry's writers' strike must really be taking its toll on producers and programmers.

This evening's Tonight Show with Jay Leno was not, as one would expect, a recent rerun. Rather, it turned out to be a repeat from an episode of June 29, 1992. The featured guests were Tom Hanks, promoting his "new" movie, A League of Their Own; Brian Ross of NBC News (long before he broke the Mark Foley story for ABC News -- any word on whether Ross is digging up anything on Trent Lott's sudden resignation?); and musician Delbert McClinton. The Tonight Show's band was still conducted by Branford Marsalis in those early days.

Because the show is more than 15 years old -- and looks it -- it is rather jarring to hear monologue jokes about "President Bush." And not a word about a randy (former) president who questions what the meaning of "is" is.

It is interesting to see how the show has developed over the years. Leno is clearly more comfortable in his role now than he was then. This is demonstrated best by the "Headlines" segment, which is much smoother today than it was in the summer of '92, even though Jay had been performing it for some time before that. The set looks clunky; it does not seem that different from the set Johnny Carson presided over in the 1970s. And, at this point, Jay had not yet developed the confidence to go out into the audience to shake hands and greet people at the top of the show.

Why this particular artifact was chosen to be aired tonight, out of the hundreds of shows produced over the past 15 years, I don't know. Has anyone heard a rationale?

No comments: