So What’s Jay Leno’s New Show Gonna Be Like, Anyway?

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Ann Lislegaard’s Crystal World (2006). Photo: Courtesy of NBC

Now that reactions to Jay Leno's upcoming move to the 10 p.m. slot have poured in from the furthest reaches of the talk-show circuit, it's time to take a step back and start to think about the creative changes that will be necessary for The Jay Leno Show to make when it starts up in the fall of 2009. Just kidding, no one really cares about the creative process! During yesterday's press conference in Burbank hosted by Leno and NBC co-chiefs Marc Graboff and Ben Silverman, the major motif was one of fiscal responsibility to parent company NBC Universal, on both the cost savings and profitability fronts. With a budget of roughly $350,000 a show, The Jay Leno Show will be one-tenth (!) as expensive as a typical drama to produce. Ergo, it need only achieve a 1.7 rating among viewers age 18 to 49 to become a massive profit generator for the network. (For the Nielsen impaired, that's slightly less than the rating that the telenovela Fuego En La Sangre scored on Univision this week!) As Graboff explained in advertiser-friendly terms, "The (expectation) for ratings is much lower than for a scripted program, it's a joinable-in-progress and more DVR-proof." Gotcha. But we're still curious, how is the show going to be any different than the current incarnation of the Tonight Show?

Well, the first thing to understand is that the show probably won't end up being that much different from what Jay has been doing all these years. "I’m not going to suddenly start doing modern interpretive dance," he quipped in an interview with TV Week. That said, the New York Times reports that the show will shift away from the current format Jay employs (comedy, first guest, second guest, musical act) in order to "do more comedy outside the studio [and] more stunts." Also, look for him to retain his monologue — the strongest-rated part of his current show, according to Jeff Zucker — and to work extra hard to promote local affiliates' 11 p.m. newscasts. Brad Adgate, senior vice-president for research at Horizon Media, told the NYT, "I could see [the show doing] interstitials with local news personalities. What Oprah Winfrey does at 4 o'clock, Jay Leno could do at 10 o'clock."

So, basically, it appears that the new show will be a more advertiser- and affiliate-friendly version of the Tonight Show, likely with one fewer guest and no musical act. Oh, and don't forget, old bits! As Jay unironically explained, "I can call up the art department and say, 'Hey, remember when we did that bit five years ago? You still got that prop?'" Ugh. Looks like the new era of television networks managing to the margins will be even more boring than we ever feared.

Topicality and Stunts on Tap for Leno’s Show [NYT]