Won’t “The Jay Leno Show” at 10 p.m. have an adverse effect on all those NBC talk shows that come later like “Tonight”?
“Hopefully it won’t look like a talk show,” says Leno, who, in the next breath says, “they’re all on after me, so it’s not my problem.”
The truth is “The Jay Leno Show” will be both different and similar to Leno’s old version of “Tonight.” Here’s what to expect:
--One main guest a night. Jerry Seinfeld opens Monday, with Tom Cruise (Tuesday), Robin Williams (Wednesday) and Halle Berry (Thursday) headlining an A-level week. The guest and Leno will sit on chairs, instead of the usual desk and couch talk-show set-up — although Leno admits the desk will be back for segments such as “Headlines.”
--Musical guests, but not every night, and restricted to one song. Except for opening night when Jay-Z, Rihanna and Kanye West rock the house. Leno feels that bands boost the studio audience, but don't do much for at-home viewers.
--Speeding electric cars and stars. Two or three times a week, Leno will take his guest star outside and each will jump into an electric Ford Focus and race around an outdoor track.
--More diversity, especially among the comedy correspondents. Comedians Liz Feldman, Brian Unger, Nick Thune, Owen Benjamin, Marina Franklin and Sebastian Maniscalco are all in house, as is former “Tonight” semi-regular Ross Mathews.
--Less Leno. The host has lost 14 pounds since he ended his "Tonight Show" run. He keeps the weight off, he says, by running two miles in the morning and then two miles at night.
--More Eubanks, less Melendez. Band leader Kevin Eubanks remains Leno’s go-to guy for banter between jokes. "Tonight Show" announcer John Melendez stays with Leno behind the scenes as a writer but the new show will not have an on-air announcer.
--“Headlines,” the “Tonight” staple in which Leno reads weird headlines that ran in actual newspapers, will be back every Monday, just like on “Tonight,” except it will come at the very end of the hour.
Bill Brioux’s “Night Watch: 50 Years of Late Night Television,” is due out this fall from Praeger Press.