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Video: Jay Leno preps for prime-time premiere

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    >> his msnbc show, "morning meeting."

    >>> tonight 's the night "the jay leno show " makes its much anticipated debut later this evening here on nbc . nbc 's lee cowan is inside jay's new digs where it all kicks off tonight . lucky you, lee. good morning.

    >> reporter: good morning, ann . he has a brand-new time slot , this brand-new set, he's got new theme music , the whole nine yards. but to jay leno though, it is stale the same old brand of what he calls big ten comedy that's worked for him for years. does he think this whole thing is a gamble? of course he does. is he worried about it? well, not the comedy.

    >> the hardest part is really getting your new set to work. you essentially go into a big empty sound stage and you hang lights and you think everything's all right. you go the --

    >> reporter: for jay leno , technical gremlins are the least of his worries. a lot is riding on tonight 's grand 10:00 p.m . experiment. "time" magazine said it was nothing less than the future of network television . no pressure. are you worried about it just because it is such a -- or do you think all the hype about it being --

    >> i don't worry about it. because i'm rich already. doesn't bother me. not my problem. you know what it is ? i did the " tonight show " for 17 years, it was number one when i got it, it was number one when i handed it off. if it doesn't work, people go did you do something else? no. you didn't have another show? no.

    >> reporter: it's a comedic dodge to a serious question. but behind the scenes jay takes the pressure seriously. this is where you walk out each night?

    >> you go through these big supermarket doors.

    >> reporter: he's been testing out new jokes to the seating of the studio audience . up close.

    >> anything can happen. you get the occasional nut case who tries to attack you. well, that's happened. that's all right.

    >> reporter: whether his comedy show can compete with pricey prime time dramas like "csi" is unknown. leno views success much like a punch line . it's all in the delivery.

    >> you try have a little something for everybody. try to have something smart, something silly, something goofy and that's -- you put it all together.

    >> reporter: some of this i would imagine is just sort of throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what sticks.

    >> it's hardly scientific and no thought goes into it at all. even the idea of throwing it on the wall is sticking is more effort than we put in.

    >> reporter: his musical sidekick, kevin eubanks , will be back and most of his writers and stage crew , too. but beyond that, "the jay leno show " is different. more comedy, less talk, all at a much faster pace.

    >> before you kind of do the joke, monologue first, first guest, commercial, dopey actress, band, you're out of there. that's gone! you got to lose the whole dopey actress part.

    >> reporter: there will be celebrity interviews, although j jay's familiar desk is gone and jay won't carry the show alone. he'll be joined by a team of comics, correspondents much like "the daily show ." all of it is unchartered. sort of like trying out a new joke on the road, which jay still does. almost every other weekend. are you still having fun ?

    >> yeah, i have a lot of fun. i'm the oldest quarterback out there and you're in a young person 's game and you're competing reasonably competitively. so, yeah, it's a lot of fun.

    >> reporter: the way leno looks at it, he is a nightclub comic who just happens to be a broadcaster. a hobby almost. but the stakes are high. now unlike the " tonight show ," he's only going to have musical guests on two nights a week. tonight is one of them, jay-z, rihanna and kanye west who made those headlines. as for the first celebrity guest, that surprisingly is a comedian, jerry seinfeld .

    >> lee cowan, thanks so much. i think it is going to do really well. people want to laugh.

    >> i hope it is a hit. jay will have the chance to say to kanye west tonight what he said to hugh grant those years ago, what were you thinking? should be interesting for the response.

    >> no kidding. catch the premier of "the jay leno show " tonight at 10:00 , 9:00 central time right here on nbc .

    >>> coming up this morning, the

By The Scoop
updated 9/14/2009 9:50:02 AM ET 2009-09-14T13:50:02

In case you haven’t heard, Jay Leno is moving to prime time. "The Jay Leno Show" launches Monday at 10 p.m. ET on NBC.

The writing found its way to the wall more than a year ago, via a show that has nothing to do with the big-chinned comedian. The "Leno" change, oddly enough, is related to NBC's decision to split football drama “Friday Night Lights” between DirecTV and NBC. The decision to move “FNL” wasn’t as much ratings-based as it was aimed at keeping the show, which has a small but very loyal following, as profitable as possible.

Defraying the $2 million or so it costs to make each “FNL” episode by partnering with DirecTV meant less pressure on the bottom line. And it worked: “FNL” was renewed (its new season premieres on DirecTV on Oct. 28) and now we’ve got Leno firmly planted in prime time, under basically the same premise.

Will the Leno experiment work? Most definitely, so long as the show is profitable — and it will be hard for it not to be, when you compare what it would cost to place scripted television five nights a week in the same spot.

But will people watch? Curious viewers may tune in for the premiere, but moving forward, it could get tough. Prime time network television is increasingly a place for sports, big events, and news shows — not dramas, sitcoms, or comedians with an hour of repurposed late night television.

The good news is, it’s irrelevant. Unlike big ratings-dependent network dramas, it’s the bottom line here that counts, and so long as Leno’s willing to play, he’ll stay.

Slideshow: Jay Leno, 'Tonight' and beyond But actors, screenwriters, and the other folks who really put in the elbow grease behind the scenes of scripted network TV aren’t so happy.

One prominent actor says that “there’s a lot of lost opportunities by having Jay take up so much real estate. You’re talking about hundreds of jobs people won’t have because he’s taking up five hours of television.”

But scripted network television’s loss could be cable’s gain. What “Mad Men” is to AMC, Leno is to NBC; a new way to lock in viewers, and hopefully, make some money. And there’s much greater latitude and opportunity for risk-taking in cable, and how does that sound unappealing? The model is changing — cable is where the bulk of television creativity will end up. And network television? That’s actually pronounced “place to go to watch big events.” But that’s OK. Change is good — it just takes some getting used to. If it means better television overall, then who can complain?

Teri Hatcher turns heads at triathlon

Image: Teri Hatcher
Dan Steinberg  /  AP
Teri Hatcher competes in the Nautica Malibu Triathlon in Malibu, Calif., on Sunday, Sept. 13.
“Desperate Housewives” star Teri Hatcher made a big impression at the 23rd annual Nautica Malibu Triathlon on Sunday. She was one of the few celeb participants who competed in all three legs of the race (1/2 mile swim, 18-mile bike race and 4-mile run) and she finished second in the female celeb category.

Hatcher completed the race in 2:06:50.7; she came in behind “Bold and the Beautiful” star Heather Tom, who finished in 1:48:57.1.

Hatcher raised more that $16,000 for Childrens Hospital Los Angeles. The money raised this year will benefit The Pediatric Cancer Research Program there.

Triathlon regulars William H. Macy and Felicity Huffman also competed — it’s their seventh consecutive year. Huffman raced on the “Desperate Housewives” team, which finished with a time of 1:48:39.2. Looking ahead to next year: yours truly will partake.

Weekend box office: ‘Bad’ does well
Tyler Perry didn’t have the biggest opening of his film career, but “I Can Do Bad All By Myself” did well enough with a $24 million opening.

Tim Burton's animated “9” only played at 1,661 locations, but it brought in $15.3 million over its five day opening. That’s impressive.

Finally, “Inglorious Basterds” plugs away — another $6.4 million, which brings its domestic take to $104.3 million, and its worldwide total to $188 million. Didn’t see that one coming.

Courtney Hazlett delivers the Scoop Monday through Friday on msnbc.com. Follow Scoop on Twitter: @ courtneyatmsnbc.

© 2013 msnbc.com Reprints


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