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An old friend has come back to my television

Have you ever found yourself feeling depressed because a favorite television show went off the air and you missed the people on the show? Well, if you have you probably shouldn't admit it 'cause that's just crazy, but I have been a little bit like that since Jay Leno left "The Tonight Show" in May.

Leno took over the reins of that show from Johnny Carson in 1992. I was a huge Carson fan, by the way. I loved hearing Ed McMahon say, "Heeeeere's Johnny!" and I loved the way Carson would swing his imaginary golf club at the end of his monologue. And he could say more with a facial expression than most people could say with words. I don't believe he told Winnie Palmer "I bet that makes his putter flutter," however, any more than I believe he asked Zsa Zsa Gabore to get that cat off her lap.

Because I was such a fan of Carson, I didn't think I would like Leno at first - but he grew on me. When he first came on the air, I could actually stay up late enough to watch his show. Now I have to go to bed a lot earlier so I will have time to get up and go to the bathroom three or four times during the night. Thank goodness for TiVo.

Remember when Leno first came on the scene? He had dark hair with one little white spot in front. Now he has white hair with one little dark spot. I wonder how that happened. At any rate, Jay Leno is a funny human being, and it didn't take me long to become a regular viewer.

I liked the Jaywalking segment on his show. Jaywalking is when he would go out amongst the masses and ask simple questions of random people. These were questions, understand, that anyone with good walking-around sense should know. You wouldn't believe some of the answers he would get. Jay seemed to have a knack for finding the stupidest among us - sort of like television news guys after tornadoes or plane crashes.

I liked the Headlines segments, too, where he displayed silly mistakes in newspaper headlines and print ads and the like. Once in a great while, I would stay up and watch him interview his guests, especially if Terry Bradshaw or Kate Hudson were on. I hardly ever watched the musical talent, which came on at the end of the show.

Jay didn't have a sidekick to compare with Ed McMahon, but his band leader, Kevin Eubanks, is a talented musician and funny in his own right, and I came to look forward to the repartee between Kevin and Jay as I did the monologues and other features. Of course the monologues were the best part of the show to me, except when he began to believe that George W. Bush was the only politician he could poke fun at. That got a little old, but that's another story for another day.

What I'm saying is, I got used to watching Leno.

And then Jay just stepped right out of my life. He left "The Tonight Show" in the hands of Conan O'Brien, of whom I am not a fan. I tried to watch a couple of times - OK, once - but it just wasn't the same. I was surprised at the void in my life because I couldn't hear Jay's jokes or see his silly bits or the antics of Ross the Intern every now and then.

But this week, I was delighted to discover that Jay is back - every night - and at 10 o'clock instead of 11:30. I don't even have to set the recorder. I can stay up until 10:15 - which is when the monologue ends - almost every night.

Now I told you all of that to tell you this. The new Jay Leno show has been panned by critics from Timbuktu to Kalamazoo. OK, maybe they didn't critique the show in Timbuktu, but I'm pretty sure the Kalamazoo guy didn't like it. The reason? They say it is too much like "The Tonight Show."

Hello! Are you paying attention out there in TV land? The reason I have been waiting for the show to come on is because I hoped it would be like "The Tonight Show." It was No. 1 in its time slot the entire time Leno hosted it. "The Tonight Show" is what we have missed so much since May.

There's no accounting for taste and no pleasing some people.

Not a fan? Don't watch. I didn't the night Michael Moore was on, although I wanted to because Cameron Diaz was supposed to follow him - but I held out. As for me, at 10 o'clock I'm on the couch with my remote in my hand, waiting for the Jaywalking All-Stars.

Now if someone could just figure out a way to bring Barney Fife back to the small screen, life would be just about perfect.

Darrell Huckaby is an author and teacher in Rockdale County. E-mail him at dhuck08@bellsouth.net.