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Picks and Pans Main: Tube

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Life goes on in the A.C. (after Carson) epoch. Jay Leno may never have Johnny’s suave ability to charm people and the camera. But Jay has been delivering sharp, politically charged monologues. I like Branford Marsalis’s band, especially guitarist Kevin Eubanks and pianist Kenny Kirkland. By staying on the hip tip, playing everything from Led Zeppelin to Miles Davis, they make Doc Severinsen and the gang seem like Jack Teagarden and his orchestra. The pace of The Tonight Show has certainly been turned up a notch or two. You have to be jumping pretty fast to fit Emilio Estevez, Joe Pesci, Paula Poundstone and the Black Crowes into one hour, as Leno did one night during his first week. Two small problems: Those taped comedy skits that follow the monologues have been weak, and the new theme song is totally punchless. The transition in hosts has been pretty smooth, but there is a noticeable difference in style. Leno is like a man hustling around a tennis court: You can actually see him working. Johnny always seemed to be involved in a relaxed game of backyard badminton.