TCA: Comedy Is Key to 'Jay Leno Show'

Leno and NBC's Rick Ludwin stress signature comedy bits, ongoing consultation with affiliates

TCA: Complete Coverage of the TV Critics Press Tour

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."