Twelve years after Ross Mathews started doing remote bits for Jay Leno, he’s finally got his own talk show. Hello Ross!, a weekly half-hour pop culture mash-up that sort of picks up where the Kevin Smith Hulu program Spoilers left off, debuts Friday at 10 p.m. on E! And Mathews says he is staying true to a couple of early career tips from Leno.
“Jay’s initial advice to me was always be on time and always be nice to the crew,” Mathews tells FishbowlNY via telephone. “That’s in my nature anyway, but I have always followed that advice. On Hello Ross!, I’m the first here, last to go; I know every first-last name, birthdays. It’s important to create that sort of atmosphere.”
Among Mathews’ favorite Leno segments is a 2008 remote with the late Steve Irwin. He says people still come up to him today and yell “Pineapple!”, which was Mathews’ code word for whenever he needed Irwin to reclaim an animal – pronto.
Mathews will be taping Hello Ross! on Thursdays but hopes to eventually do his show the day of and, if all goes well, some day segue to live. Alongside a group of executive producers that includes Ray Giuliani (Sally Jesse Raphael, Montel) and Tom Brunelle (Chelsea Handler‘s Borderline Amazing partner), there are some other familiar faces.
“My high school best friend, who’s written with me since day one, is a writer on the show,” says Mathews. “My college roommate, Ryan, is a producer. One of my best friends for 10 years is another writer. Chelsea’s cousin is a producer on the show. And there are also people I’ve met along the way that are part of the crew.”
Mathews says his team has been scouring the Internet to find authentic super-fans. The plan is to gradually embed some of these folks as regular, recognizable members of the program’s in-the-round 120-person audience. During each show, around a half-dozen additional fans will be dialed in via Skype to help feed the pop culture discussion.
“I think there’s a lot of room to grow,” says Mathews, “whether it’s into an hour-long format or four days a week. I’ll be doing a little bit of celebrity interviewing sometimes, off the top, with people like Gwyneth Paltrow. But the bulk of each episode is going to be me interacting with the fans.”
Mathews will make appearances on The Tonight Show right through until Leno’s departure next February and of course continue to drop in as a panelist and occasional guest host on Chelsea Lately.
Previously on Mediabistro:
From Ross the Intern to Ross the Author