There won’t be a desk, but there will be a monologue.
Exactly what “The Jay Leno Show” will look like was revealed at the Television Critics Assn. Wednesday afternoon, as the host offered up tidbits of how the hourlong program will look when it finally launches Sept. 14.
Leno said NBC News anchor Brian Williams will make appearances, and there will be comedy segments from D.L. Hughley, Jim Norton, Rachael Harris and Mikey Day. There would be one guest a night, occasionally two.
“I would like to make stars on this show,” he said. “I’d like to find the man or woman who would replace me.”
A racetrack will be built outside NBC’s Burbank soundstage, where the show will tape, and guests will race in green-friendly cars. Celebs who have already expressed interest in participating include Tom Cruise.
And the last 15 minutes of the show will be some sort of comedy routine — possibly the “Jaywalking” or “Headlines” bits established on “The Tonight Show” — that will seamlessly lead into the 11 p.m. local news.
“NBC is the affiliates who back the show,” Leno said during the Peacock’s last session of the day. “We want to provide a strong lead-in.”
A refreshed Leno, who has been working out in the summer and has lost at least 10 pounds, said the key to the program’s success will be comedy that’s as topical and broad as possible.
“In this show there will be something for everyone and will play across the board,” he said. “The real key to this show is if the president does something, we can get it on the air at 10 o’clock.”
The host explained he’s not expecting the show to be a ratings powerhouse, but it should be a steady performer with the advantage that it’ll be new 46 weeks a year.
“Do I expect to beat ‘CSI: Miami’?” he asked rhetorically. “No, but while everyone else is in reruns we’ll be doing this every night. … If we go down in flames, we’ll be laughing all the way down.”
Leno took offense at the notion that the creative community was taking a big hit by his five hours in primetime, and that TV writers would be setback financially.
“Our writers are in the top 5% in the guild and in terms of taking work away, you’re just switching people,” he said.
When addressing whether the fourth-place Peacock was putting all of its fall expectations on “The Jay Leno Show,” the host answered back, “I’m not here to save the network. Screw the network. They’re on their own.”
Prior to Leno’s appearance, NBC latenight topper Rick Ludwin said the show will be on the air for at least a year — no matter how the ratings turn out — and will be reassessed after that.
In discussing Leno’s “Tonight Show” replacement, Ludwin said it was wrong to call Conan O’Brien “the king of latenight” after only his first five shows. It was a declaration the network now regrets.
“We were very proud of the show and the numbers far exceeded our expectations, but we used that phrase in the headline and that was premature,” Ludwin said.
Leno admitted that with him and O’Brien on the same coast, they’ll occasionally be battling for the same guest, but he believed it wouldn’t affect their longstanding friendship.
“You play to win,” he said.