'The Jay Leno Show': Seems Like We've Seen This One Before
In one fell swoop, NBCUniversal2.0 chief Jeff Zucker pushed his NBC network five hours closer to a Hollywood-strike-proof prime time, saved upward of $200 million in programming costs and kept the network's No. 1-ranked late-night talk-show host Jay Leno out of the open arms of ABC.
NBC officially announced yesterday that its host of "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" is taking over the 10 p.m. hour, Monday through Friday, starting in the fall, with a show that, to the naked eye, looks very much like "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno."
Moving with Jay to prime time will be his opening monologue; his "Headlines," "Jaywalking" and "Battle of the Jaywalking All-Stars" comedy bits; celebrity interviews; bandleader Kevin Eubanks; and music acts. And, as with "The Tonight Show," it will be performed live-to-tape before a studio audience. He'll even use his old "Tonight Show" set -- Conan O'Brien's getting a shiny new one on the NBCUniversal2.0 lot.
But his one-hour program -- the first-ever entertainment show to be "stripped" across prime time on broadcast TV -- will be called "The Jay Leno Show." At least that's the working title.
At a news conference yesterday in Burbank, Calif., Leno, flanked by NBC Entertainment co-chairmen Ben Silverman and Marc Graboff, got off about five priceless cracks about NBC while Graboff explained most of the dry stuff, and Silverman -- whose new-prime-time-series development this season has been a disaster, leaving NBC in a world of hurt -- chimed in with a "killer app" gag every once in a while.
"Originally I wasn't going to stay with NBC, but I remembered what my parents told me . . . 'Whatever you do, always try to come in fourth,' " Leno joked about staying at the General Electric-owned network, which, five years ago, announced it would replace Leno in his "Tonight Show" gig in 2009 -- even though his was the top-rated late-night show -- and gave the job to Conan so as to keep Conan from jumping to another network.
"You're in the right place," offered Silverman, who should not try comedy.
"There were reports I was going to ABC -- that was started by a disgruntled employee: me!" Leno told reporters gathered at NBC Burbank HQ.
At one point in the news conference, which out-of-town press watched via webcast, Silverman, who marveled that Leno's new show will be "totally DVR-proof," began to rave that what's so great about Leno taking 10 p.m. off his hands is that it allows him, Ben Silverman, to concentrate all his "firepower" at 8-10 p.m., "driving what the NBC brand is, which is the comedy brand -- the brand of true talent."
"What Ben is saying is, We barely have six hours of programming," Leno snapped.