CNN to Air Jay Leno Special

Jay Leno ESPY Awards 2012 - P 2014
AP Images

Jay Leno ESPY Awards 2012 - P 2014

CNN is setting a Jay Leno special, one week before he hands over The Tonight Show to successor Jimmy Fallon.

Jay Leno: Mr. Comedy, highlighting Leno's "amazing life and successes," will debut Friday, Jan. 31, at 10 p.m. ET, the cable news channel announced Wednesday. CNN's Nischelle Turner will serve as host.

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According to the announcement, the 30-minute special will look at Leno's career, beginning in the 1970s when he was starting out in comedy clubs, and continuing through to his TV debut in the '80s and the challenges of succeeding Tonight Show host Johnny Carson in the '90s.

CNN plans to re-air the special on Saturday, Feb. 1, at 7:30 p.m. ET.

Leno's final Tonight Show airs Thursday, Feb. 6, with final guest Billy Crystal, who was also his first interviewee in 1992.

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In The Hollywood Reporter cover story, Leno insists he is ready to hand over the reins to Fallon. "It's not really sad," Leno said when asked about his emotions about the final show. "It's been a really good run and you have to be realistic. I think it's safe to say if NBC didn't have somebody in the bullpen, I might be here a little bit longer and I get that."

The cable news channel has been active in producing specials around headline-makers. Most recently, CNN slated a Justin Bieber special following his arrest in Miami Beach.

CNN Worldwide president Jeff Zucker, who once ran NBC, has been one of the executives interested in working with Leno when he exits Tonight Show, though Zucker has downplayed reports that he is courting Leno.

"We have some other things that I'd like to concentrate on first," he said of the Leno speculation Jan. 10 at the winter TCA. "That's not in the cards anytime soon. I have a longtime relationship with Jay -- I think he's a terrific talent -- but that's not where our priorities are."

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