The Saints won the Super Bowl. The Ad Bowl went to CBS.

Specifically, to the Late Show, thanks to its jaw-dropping revisit of the successful 2007 spot that featured David Letterman and Oprah Winfrey. As if we needed to remind you, last night's shockfest included an even unlikelier good sport in their midst: Jay Leno.

So, how did this spot come together—and more importantly, why was it not a Dave-Jay-Oprah-Conan lovefest? Funny you should ask...

"There was an initial thought of having Dave, Jay and Conan together in the spot," longtime Late Show exec producer Rob Burnett told The Wrap. "I did call [O'Brien's producer] Jeff Ross to talk about it."

Albeit right around the time when CoCo's Tonight Show tenure was wrapping up, and the idea of spending an afternoon in a room with his replacement probably wasn't all that enticing to him. Not that he turned it down, mind you.

"It wasn't as if they even said no," Burnett said. "I just think they weren't in a position to consider it at all."

But Leno was, and, according to Burnett, said yes right away—just after calling Letterman's team back to make sure that they were, in fact, being serious.

So Letterman, who masterminded the idea, got CBS' approval, and NBC not that surprisingly jumped at the chance to allow Leno to participate in a promotion for his rival during the most-watched broadcast of the year (and, let's be honest, everyone that appeared in that promo came out a winner).

Even NBC knew better than to look a gift horse like that in the mouth, and gave Leno access to the NBC Universal private jet to fly to New York last Tuesday, when the spot was secretly filmed at Letterman's home office, the Ed Sullivan Theater.

The parties worked overtime to ensure the spot's secrecy, with Leno going so far as to sneak into the theater wearing a hooded sweatshirt, glasses and fake mustache. Seriously.

No word on whether Winfrey went to such lengths to remain incognito, but we're gonna go with no.

Meanwhile, this also answers the question as to why The Jay Leno Show was preempted last Tuesday to make way for a supersize edition of The Biggest Loser. No Jay in L.A. = no new show. (For those keeping track, the taping took place after Leno's Oprah sit-down in which he was scolded for his below-the-belt shot at Letterman. Nothing like a little zinger's remorse to facilitate the best ad of the night.)

The spot, which took about 30 minutes to shoot, was conceived and written by Letterman, but once the two men got together, they focused in on the best way to deliver the shock commercial. And if fans of either were hoping for fireworks, well, keep hoping.

"There was nothing frosty or awkward about it," Burnett said of the atmosphere once the legendary late-night rivals had gathered together, with the New York Times adding that the pros even greeted each other "warmly."

"These guys have known each other for a long time. I don't think either of them particularly care about these jokes that have been made...They were trying to execute this joke. So a lot of the conversation was about the spot."

Oh, to be a fly on that wall. Still, the trio perhaps did too good a job of maintaining the secrecy of the commercial. After the spot aired early on in the big game, many Americans couldn't believe what they were seeing and theories about split screens and technological sleight of hand immediately began circulating. So much so that an ultimate authority had to step in.

"Yes that was REAL," Oprah tweeted shortly after the spot aired. "D, J and me. Shot Tuesday nite in New York undercover at D's studio."

And currently on track for YouTube infamy.


The Super Bowl wasn't all about the commercials. There was some football, too. But more importantly, there were some stars! Check out who in our Super Bowl Sightings gallery.

  • Share
  • Tweet
  • Share