Jay Leno's 'Tonight Show' Return: Business as Usual

The host makes nice, but can the battle-scarred comedian reclaim his former crown as king of late night?

After weeks of controversy surrounding the late-night television war that resulted in Conan O'Brien's departure from NBC, Jay Leno returned to his post at The Tonight Show. Back at home in his 11:35 p.m. slot, Leno opened with a Wizard of Oz sequence -- complete with Betty White! -- wondering if it had all been a bad dream (we bet Team Conan wonders the same thing!).

Accompanied (for now) by one-foot-out-the-door bandleader Kevin Eubanks, Leno told the crowd, "It's good to be home," followed by, "I'm your host, at least for a while." Was it just us, or did he seem self-conscious about the way many viewers have cast him as the villian in the whole programming debacle?

As the show progressed, it was all pretty much business as usual for Leno, who made no mention of O'Brien, but joked that he was nervous because David Letterman and Oprah would be watching him. After Leno's monologue, we got a sketch (with appearances by Adam Corolla and Randy Jackson) about finding his new Tonight Show desk. Then the amiable host interviewed actor-rapper Jamie Foxx (who roused the crowd with a Leno chant) and leggy Lindsey Vonn, the gold-medal Olympic skier; Brad Paisley was the musical guest.

While ratings for Leno's first night back aren't in yet, there's been no shortage of opinions in the blogosphere. ABC called the return "semi-triumphant," while Entertainment Weekly TV critic Ken Tucker mocked Leno's "happy to be home" schtick: "Ha-ha-ha, oh, oh, I get it: Conan was a bully who kicked poor Jay out of his own house." 

Other late-night hosts chimed in on the situation, including Letterman, 62, who told viewers, "My name is David Letterman -- same time, same host," while Jimmy Fallon, celebrating the one-year anniversary of his Late Night gig, ribbed his network with the greeting, "Welcome to Late Night with Jimmy Fallon: NBC's longest-running nightly comedy show!" 

Leno's guests for his second night back will be former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, snowboarder Shaun White, and musical guest Adam Lambert.

PHOTOS: Jay Leno Tells All to Oprah: Likes or Yikes?

What did you think of Jay Leno's return to The Tonight Show? Chime in below!

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