Jay Leno -- NBC Photo: Mitchell Haaseth
In some respects, "The Jay Leno Show" is a lot like Leno's "The Tonight Show" turned upside down.
Leno's best-known comedy bits, such as the "Jaywalking" segment, his riffs on headlines and
In a freewheeling roundtable session with reporters on Wednesday, Leno noted that while his "Tonight Show" was always "frontloaded" with the best material in the first half-hour, before viewership dropped off, the
Leno said he's enthused about the prospect of hanging on to a larger chunk of his audience for a full hour.
"I think 10 o'clock is the new 11:30," he quipped.
Leno admitted that much of his show remains a work in progress, even with just a little more than three weeks to go until its premiere. A big component will be pre-taped bits from a raft of correspondents. Leno stressed that he and his producers went out of their way to assemble an eclectic roster of contributors.
"We have a diverse group," Leno said. "It looks like America; it's not a bunch of white guys doing standup."
Leno hesitated to offer too many specifics on the kind of material the correspondents will deliver. Comedian
In his hour with reporters, Leno was loose and seemingly sanguine about the big
Leno noted that his show employs 22 scribes whose earnings put them in the top 5% of Writers Guild of America members.
"If we didn't do this, you'd have 'Dateline' five nights a week," he said. "If I wasn't doing this, someone else would. At least we have union people working on this show."
He also noted that with the growth of basic cable, "There are more scripted primetime dramas now than at any other point in history."
With his monologue, Leno expects to deliver about eight to 12 minutes a night of straight standup comedy. But the focus on taped bits from contributors is a reflection of Leno's feeling that too much standup in an hour gets a little dull for the home aud.
"In the last 10 to 15 years on all the talk shows, (standup) doesn't snap quite as much. So this is a way to use young comics in a new way. They go out and shoot the standup pieces" they'd otherwise riff on in front of a microphone, Leno said.
Leno assured reporters that his show would not feature traditional variety-show sketches, nor would it be packed with guests. Most episodes will feature a single guest, plus a segment later in the show dubbed "10 at 10," in which celebs and other newsmakers will answer a rapid-fire series of 10 "ridiculous, celebrity-based questions."
Leno, well known for his love of cars and motorcycles, is also revved up about the "Green Car Challenge" segment that may run two or three times a week. Guests will be invited to take an electric Ford Focus car around a racetrack that is under construction in the parking lot adjacent to Studio 11 on the NBC Burbank lot where the show will be taped weekdays at
The race will be an ongoing competition for guests to beat the best time on record for two laps around the track, or a total of 2,200 feet. Leno, who led reporters on a tour of his set (still under construction), said he's already received calls from racing enthusiasts like
Beyond the recurring segments, Leno said viewers should expect the show to be packed with comedy, which he thinks will be competitive in the drama-heavy
"It's just trying to give you a laugh before you go to bed," he said. "This is just meat and potatoes, good food at sensible prices."
Finding a spot is the big challenge right now for first-season reality TV programs. After all, there are only so many hours in the day to watch television, and viewers tend to be loyal to their favorite show, even if it's a little long in the tooth.
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