It may look like the Tonight Show and sound like the Tonight Show, but—as Conan O'Brien has no doubt been continually assured—Jay Leno's newest television endeavor is no Tonight Show.
But, according to details unveiled today by NBC, whatever Leno's new gig, it sure plays like déjà vu.
In the wake of yesterday's news leak, the Peacock formally confirmed that Leno won't be taking his audience-pulling talents elsewhere, instead opting to remain with NBC as host of The Jay Leno Show, which will air weeknights at 10 p.m.
And while the network will be doing its best to preserve the sanctity of its late-night institution for O'Brien, all Leno-branded Tonight segments will stay with Jay.
Which means it might be O'Brien, not Leno, who will be taking this one on the chin...
The hourlong Jay Leno Show, which will premiere in fall 2009 and aim to be more "topical and DVR-proof," will retain the "Headlines," "Jaywalking" and "Battle of the Jaywalking All-Stars" bits.
Borrowing even more from the Tonight playbook, the new show will also feature a nightly monologue, celebrity guests and tape in front of a live audience.
NBC suits played down—by almost completely neglecting to address—the potential thunder-stealing move, instead choosing to play up their now seemingly untouchable late-night comedy trifecta of Leno, O'Brien and newcomer Jimmy Fallon.
"This is the greatest all-star comedy lineup in the history of television," trumpeted Rick Ludwin, the net's executive veep of late-night and prime-time series.
Hyperbole aside, NBC President Jeff Zucker heralded the deal to keep Leno on board, especially as reports in recent months have pegged him as ready to take a rival late-night gig, most likely at ABC.
"For the past few years, we've been very vocal about two things: transforming broadcast television for today's media landscape, and keeping Jay at NBC. In this one announcement we have done both."
At a press conference in Los Angeles, Leno addressed the revved-up reports of his network departure.
"There were reports I was going to go to ABC, but those were started by a disgruntled employee...me," Leno said, before not entirely believably noting that he was "joking."
As for the differences between the shows, there will be a few—and from the sounds of it, only a few.
Leno himself said the new show would "try to get out of the studio more," will not include the tried-and-true desk setup and will feature "a little more newsmakers, a little more topical stuff."
He also said he hoped that current Tonight Show band leader Kevin Eubanks would join him on the new show.
And as for potential crossover with O'Brien, Leno said there has yet to be any behind-the-scenes contention.
"People always like to feel there's some adversarial relationship...there really isn't [any tension]."
But if there is...
"I'd rather fight with my family than other networks."