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Jay Leno's next go-round will mix familiar, ‘fresh'

Hal Boedeker
The Orlando Sentinel (MCT)

Just what will Jay Leno's new 10 p.m. EST Monday-Friday show look like next fall?

The host and NBC Universal sent contradictory messages in Orlando recently.

"You can look for an even longer monologue," said Jeff Zucker, NBC Universal president and CEO. "Clearly, that has historically been and will continue to be the strength of the show."

But Leno questioned that suggestion. "The monologue is pretty long. It runs almost 14 minutes sometimes," he said. "The nice thing about the monologue, it's never less than 10 minutes, and it's usually no more than 13 or 14."

And the title? "The Jay Leno Show," Zucker said.

"That's not my first choice, but that's OK," Leno said. "My mother is from Scotland, and my mother (went), 'Why do you have your name all over everything?'"

Leno leaves "The Tonight Show" May 29 to make room for Conan O'Brien. Yet Leno said he would take the best elements from "The Tonight Show" for his new series.

"We'll lose the desk," Leno said. "We'll have a little different setup. We'll still interview celebrities, not necessarily three or two. Maybe just one. And then, hopefully, involve the celebrity in comedy bits, something to keep the second half-hour fresh."

The trick, Leno said, will be livening up the second half-hour to hold viewers.

NBC Universal and Leno agree about what's ahead when he takes on new episodes of dramas such as "CSI: Miami."

"We don't expect in any way for Jay's ratings, when he's competing against those original, first-run dramas, to be comparable to those programs in any way. Not even close," Zucker said. "In the aggregate of the 52 weeks - which is how we sell it ... Jay's ratings will be comparable to the competition."

Leno will offer original programs 46 to 48 weeks a year while most scripted dramas produce just 22 to 24 episodes a season.

"We expect the fall will be the most difficult time," Zucker said. "We're not throwing in the towel. We think it will do well."

Leno said he expected to have his backside kicked in the fall. "We pick it up in the Christmas holiday, in the spring, in the summer," Leno said. "At the end of the year, you have a profitable show that when the ratings are all averaged out, hey, you're doing pretty good."

Leno has a multiyear deal with NBC, and any decision about whether the new show is working will come at least after a year, Zucker said.

Leno seemed unfazed by the scrutiny that he'll receive in moving to prime time.

"I don't worry about it," he said. "This is what I do. I have the same friends I had when I was in high school. I'm leaving the talk show with the same wife I came in with. That's fairly rare. If it works, great. If it doesn't work, well, boy, it was a lot of fun. I don't beat myself over it."

He explained his approach. "The key is never become a personality, always try to have material, always try to have something funny," Leno said. "Never assume anybody wants to see you. They want to see you do whatever it is you do, as opposed to just showing up."

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

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TV

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

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The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

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To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

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Gallagher's work often suffers unfairly beside famous husband's Raymond Carver. The Man from Kinvara should permanently remedy this.

Many years ago—it had to be 1989—my sister and I attended a poetry reading given by Tess Gallagher at California State University, Northridge's Little Playhouse. We were students, new to California and poetry. My sister had a paperback copy of Raymond Carver's Cathedral, which we'd both read with youthful admiration. We knew vaguely that he'd died, but didn't really understand the full force of his fame or talent until we unwittingly went to see his widow read.

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