Perhaps you have seen the incessant NBC promotions for The Jay Leno Show, promising unprecedented comedy in the 10 o'clock hour for American TV viewers? (If you have a TV, then of course you have, and I wonder if the people in the Central and Mountain time zones get their own ads that say 9 p.m., or if they're just confused? That last part may be rhetorical) Leno has done a lot of press to promote it this summer, from the official TCA "tour," to traveling to various NBC affiliates for promos and interviews, to a conference call earlier this week. We've gotten the message. And the conventional wisdom has been NBC is willing to bet on five hours of comedy as a cheaper option without the promise of big ratings. But. Wait. Just. One. Second.
Five hours of comedy. Much of it stand-up, or taped segments produced and starring stand-up comedians. In primetime! This is a much bigger deal. Jerry Seinfeld, tapped to be Leno's first guest on Monday's debut, has been taking it seriously enough that he has rehearsed his stand-up material several times this week in New York City comedy clubs.
After all, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in the late 1960s only aired once a week. So was Sid Caesar's Caesar's Hour; Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In; The Milton Berle Show; even The Jack Paar Program that some have compared Leno's move most closely to, only aired one night a week. Which means Leno will need to fill a lot of airtime, and he has enlisted a cadre of comedians to help him do so. NBC so far has announced that Leno will be airing contributions from D.L. Hughley, Jim Norton, Rachael Harris, Mikey Day, Dan Finnerty and the Dan Band, Liz Feldman, Brian Unger, Nick Thune, Owen Benjamin, Marina Franklin, Sebastian Maniscalco and former Leno intern Ross Matthews. UPDATED: Also Dwayne Perkins, who wasn't listed on the NBC press release, but was showing up on the TV ads for Leno during Thursday night's NFL coverage. And here is video of Time magazine photographing Leno on the new set.
In some interviews, Leno has said he's not looking to do what The Daily Show does, (except for the fact that he'll have NBC's own news anchor, Brian Williams presenting funny news) which is true only in that he already had been sending out comedians into the world to file their own takes on the news -- as this NBC clip package shows:
From what I have learned talking to the comedians who are participating on the show, as well as looking at what these people were bringing to the table already, I think I'm safe in telling you what we can expect from the part of Leno's hour that does not include celebrity car races, Headlines, Jaywalking or Jay's monologue.