Beverly Hills- Jay Leno made a surprise appearance at the executive session at the TCA press tour today. Not only was his appearance a surprise, but his appearance was a surprise.
Right before the session began, a very large (apparently) bald man in a fancy suit, black shirt and a distinctive beard (covering up a large chin) sat down about five feet to my left. I was more annoyed than anything, as I was getting ready to jot down notes.
The costume was so good, NBC Entertainment co-president Marc Graboff did not recognize Jay in the green room before the event (see the photo below).
“I saw Ben [Silverman] standing next to some guy, I didn’t recognize him,” Graboff said.
When he got the first question, and started jabbing Graboff and Silverman about Jay Leno’s last day on The Tonight Show, and then began following up with other, stranger questions, such as if it was cheesy for Jimmy Kimmel to show up at last week’s ABC event, I think people began to catch on.
Graboff said that Jay was the one who decided to show up at the press event, after having seen Jimmy Kimmel riddle Steve McPherson with questions, and just coming off of a USA Today article that insinuated that he was ready to leave NBC.
“He wanted to make it clear that he was a part of the process [of transitioning to Conan in 2009,]” Graboff said.
Graboff added that the network (and Conan) would give Jay a “huge” sendoff come May 29, Jay’s last night hosting The Tonight Show, but that the network desperately wanted him to stay with them in some form. Among the ideas bandied about by reporters was a primetime variety show of or a series of specials.
Given the success of Jay’s costume, maybe he could join the cast of Knight Rider as some sort of biker. The man was unrecognizable, and I was sitting five feet from him. Though I do have to admit, that beard covered it up quite well, but the chin still gave it away…
Photos: Paul Drinkwater/NBC