TCA: Comedy Is Key to 'Jay Leno Show'
Leno and NBC's Rick Ludwin stress signature comedy bits, ongoing consultation with affiliates
By Stephanie Robbins -- Broadcasting & Cable, 8/5/2009 10:00:19 PM
Pasadena, Calif. -- Rick Ludwin, NBC Entertainment executive VP for late night and primetime series, and Jay Leno emphasized comedy as the most important factor to the success of The Jay Leno Show, during the network's presentation here August 5 at the Television Critics Association press tour.
Like NBC Entertainment chiefs Angela Bromstad and Paul Telegedy in their executive Q&A session earlier in the day, Ludwin wouldn't give a specific rating goal for the new 10 p.m. show.
"We're going to judge this on a 52-week basis," he said. "We've done three separate studies as to what the audience expects from Jay Leno. The audience is really looking forward to this comedy alternative aLent 10 p.m."
No matter what Leno's ratings are, Ludwin will likely be more cautious before making Leno the "King" of any medium. He admitted that he regrets dubbing Conan O'Brien the "King of Late Night" so soon after he succeed Leno as host of The Tonight Show.
"We were so thrilled for the numbers for this first week that we used that phrase and that headline and that was premature," he said.
But, he was quick to point out that he was not disappointed in Conan's ratings: "He is winning 18-49, A18-34 and A35-54. We're winning in all the demos that the advertisers want to buy."
When asked about local affiliates concerns that Leno's new show could negatively impact their 11 p.m. news ratings, Ludwin said the network is meeting regularly with the stations to determine how the whole hour is formatted.
"The key ingredient they like most is that the last segment is going to be comedy leading into their late local news," Ludwin said. "When that comedy is over it will literally end the show, and [Jay] will say your late local news starts now."
Leno himself added, "The signature pieces people like such as 'Headlines,' 'Jay Walking,' those will be the pieces that bring us into the 11 o'clock news. We want to provide a strong lead-in for the 11 o'clock news."
He described other aspects of the new format and noted that the larger set won't include a desk.
"It won't be a talk show or a variety show," he said.
It will also have a number of correspondents, including comedians D.L. Hughley, Mikey Day, Rachael Harris, Jim Norton and The Dan Band. NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams will also make frequent appearances on the show.
Ludwin added that another difference will be limited musical acts and no more than one or two celebrity guests per episode.
"Research indicated very clearly that what the audience wants in these shows is laughs and comedy," he said. "We'll have bigger comedy. Comedy is the X factor."
Leno believes one thing that will set him apart from his primetime competition will be the immediacy of his show.
"If something happens, if the president does something, we can comment on it and get it on the air first at 10 p.m.," he said. "This is 46 weeks a year. While everyone else is in reruns, we'll be doing fresh shows."
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