NBC at TCA: The Jay Leno Show Panel

TCA Panel: The Jay Leno Show

Monday-Friday 10 p.m.

-The Premise:

The soon-to-be former host of The Tonight Show heads to prime-time in a nightly hour featuring comedy skits, big stunts, well-known segments like “Headlines,” “Jaywalking” and “99-Cent Store” and music (the latter two times per week).


-Lead-in: Trauma

-Competition: Castle (ABC), CSI: Miami (CBS)


-Lead-in: The Biggest Loser

-Competition: The Forgotten (ABC), The Good Wife (CBS)


-Lead-in: Law & Order: SVU

-Competition: Eastwick (ABC), CSI: NY (CBS)


-Lead-in: Community (for six weeks), then 30 Rock

-Competition: Private Practice (ABC), The Mentalist (CBS)


-Lead-in: Southland

-Competition: 20/20 (ABC), Numbers (CBS)

-The Scoop:

After the truly horrific opening session, NBC redeemed itself with some real answers about what lies ahead on The Jay Leno Show. According to Rick Ludwin, executive vp, Late Night and Primetime Series, NBC Entertainment:

“We have done three separate studies as to what the audience expects from The Jay Leno Show at 10 o’clock. We did our own. And the affiliates did their independent research study on it. And all three of these studies show that the audience is really looking forward to this comedy alternative at 10 o’clock and that they like Jay Leno, they want to laugh and they feel that a Jay Leno show in this hour  is compatible with the late local news. And I think it’s going to help our late night too. We had meetings with the affiliates on an ongoing basis to determine how the hour should be formatted.

And one of the key ingredients that they liked the most about this format is the last segment being comedy.  Jay will say good night. He will thank his guests. He will stay ‘Stay tuned for Conan.’ And then he will say, ‘Your late local news starts now,’ and we fade to black and the news starts.

Music will be part of the 10 o’clock show, probably twice a week. And what you are going to see in these musical performances is a combination of stars you might not get to see performing together, along the lines of what you might be seeing at The Grammy Awards.  Those are the kinds of musical acts you’re going to see on the Jay Leno 10 o’clock show, but not in that last segment and not every night of the week.”

The show, according to Jay Leno:

“The set is interesting. It’s a lot bigger than our old set. There’s no desk. We might use a desk in the last 15 minutes because I’m trying to think of some better way to do headlines. But it won’t be a talk show, and it won’t be a variety show with wigs and hats on and things of that nature. We have a number of correspondents. And we have some featured people. I spoke to Brian Williams from The Nightly News and I said, ‘Would you be willing to do something on a regular basis, contributing perhaps things like stories that weren’t good enough for The Nightly News, this type of stuff?’ And he said yes, he would love to do it. So he is going to, hopefully, hone his comedy chops on our show. He’ll be a featured guest. Then we’re going to introduce a lot of new correspondents. The idea of having comedians coming on, doing their little five-minute stand-up, and sitting down, there’s nothing wrong with that. But to give it a bit more punch, I’m hoping we can make some stars here. We’ve found a number of people, like D.L. Hughley, who will report on politics in Washington, D.C.

-The Reality:

Five hours of Jay Leno in prime time? Yes, it is unprecedented. Yes, it is very dangerous. This is five hours per week (or 23 percent of the schedule, after all). And, yes, it could be a major catastrophe. But since NBC is in a desperate situation and the viewers already now Jay’s shtick, this could be a risk worth taking.  While the success of the talk show will, of course, fall heavily on the caliber of guests (President Obama…are you available again?), airing out of The Biggest Loser makes Tuesday the best bet. And because The Tonight Show with Jay Leno always skewed older than CBS’ competing The Late Show with David Letterman, chances are there will be a lot of grey in the mix on NBC next season. That said, since when does NBC care about viewers over 50?

-Chance of Survival for The Jay Leno Show (Based on a scale of 1-1 to 10-1): 4-1

-Did You Know?:

During my five year (1990-95) tenure at NBC, I handled the ratings for The Tonight Show and spoke to Jay Leno a few times per day (Thanksgiving included). Word of advice to the publicist of The Jay Leno Show: better have a spare cell phone number handy. He is very nice and very attuned to the ratings! Although Leno claimed he was not all that concerned about how this new show will do, nah…people don’t change all that much.

Check out Marc and Alan’s predictions for NBC below: