So... this has been weird to watch.
1) Letterman's back, and the show makes me laugh, but I swear to God if Paul Schaeffer doesn't stop killing actual laughter with a musical sting at the end of every punchline, I'm going to fly to New York and kick him in the dick.
It is weird, tho, that even though Letterman is in second place in the ratings, he's not the underdog here. His standards are higher - and should be - he's got his staff. He's got the ability to get better guests.
2) Leno has never been looser. It's been interesting to watch, actually. Without his writers, Jay has had to rely on his chops more than ever - chops which we haven't really seen in a while. It's easier to pick safer material when you have a dozen people writing for you. (By the way, this isn't to say that his writers only write safe stuff... but in the end, the stuff that's picked is the stuff that's picked.)
There have been jokes with edge, a surprising amount of sexual material, an obvious reach into the "bag of jokes from three months ago before the strike" but... it's weird. It's like he's enjoying himself.
This doesn't absolve the whole "writing a monologue" debate, which is a WHOLE 'nother debate. But as I watch this all unfold, I think Leno is finding his inner comedian again. Not the host, which he's honed over the years, but the "guy with a beef" that used to sit on Letterman's couch, and has a couch of his own now.