Let's think of Julia Louis-Dreyfus as a sort of pioneer. Tonight, she crossed the silly border into NBC's prime time.
In an absurd bit of pettiness, CBS and ABC reportedly told their stars not to be guests on the new "Jay Leno Show." This is especially absurd because the show:
-- Is little threat, finishing third each night in Nielsen ratings for its three-network time slot.
-- Provides a great opportunity for the competition. As long as NBC has Leno at 10, there will be one less drama to compete with. That means CBS and ABC shows -- from "The Mentalist" to "The Forgotten" -- have an easier time.
-- Does a good job of promoting its guests' shows. Fox got great mileage out of the witty Hugh Laurie; it might have another Leno guest ... well, as soon as "American Idol" comes back or Bart Simpson becomes a real boy.
Meanwhile, Dreyfus was a terrific guest. In other parts of the show:
a) The opening monolog was funny, even if it did turn a bit gruesome. When was the last time you heard someone attempt two puns dealing with a terrorist exploding dynamite in his buttocks? (One sort of rhymed "heinous" and "anus"; the other suggested that "the Shiite hit the fan.)
b) "10 at 10," my least-favorite portion, was actually OK. Billy Crystal offered some straight information (he foolishly rejected a voice role in "Toy Story") and some wit. Asked to name three current Jewish baseball players, Crystal included "Derek Jetowitz."
c) And for the first in the show's 12 episodes, there was no "correspondent."
So far, there have been a few good correspondents and a few (including Monday's) bad ones. This time, instead, Leno had a two-part variation on "Jaywalking," featuring three women from "The Real Housewives of Orange County."
That bit works best when talking with bright-but-ditzy Californians who have no knowledge or interest in the most basic questions. The problem here was that Jeana Keough was included: Keough -- the wife (separated) and daughter-in-law of baseball major-leaguers Matt and Marty Keough -- is the smart one on "Housewives."
She kept getting answers right, but the others were ditzy enough to make up for it. Still, Tamra Barney, did have two moments of truth.
One questions was: "Who elects the president of the United States?" Her sometimes-true answer: "Florida."
And after missing many questions, she asked: "Do we really have to know this?"
Leno, glancing at the beauty who lives in luxury, quietly replied: "Apparently not."