'Jay Leno Show' plans to forge its own identity


NBC is determined to make sure "The Jay Leno Show" is seen as an hour of comedy, not just another version of "The Tonight Show."

Even so, Leno will bring to his new gig many of his familiar "Tonight Show" bits: He'll open each program with his signature monologue, and use others like "Headlines" and "Jaywalking." There will also be what NBC refers to as "digital features," most tied to Leno's interests in car collecting, including an original online series ("Jay's Garage"); an under-the-hood video segment with Leno ("Ask Jay"); a blog ("Restoration"); and "Your Garage," described as a social networking feature where fans can submit photos and videos to show off their own classic cars.

"They haven't yet pinpointed exactly what they're doing, but there apparently are going to be a lot of interactive elements, a lot of stuff linked with YouTube and others," a source says. "They're talking about maybe having one guest on some shows."

They're also looking to book big stars and many more "newsmakers," like politicians.

Another mandate from NBC is to get Leno "off the couch" as much as possible. That may not always mean leaving the studio, however, as NBC is building a huge stage and facility for the show in Burbank adjacent to Studio 3 where he has been doing "Tonight."

Although NBC sold the property to Los Angeles developer M. David Paul Associates, the network was able to lease back the space it needed. Paul didn't return calls for comment, but sources say the economic crunch has slowed plans to develop the land as a media center. (When Conan O'Brien takes over "Tonight," he will have a completely new auditorium and offices up the road at Universal Studios on what was once Stage 1, home to Jack Benny and others.)

NBC didn't confirm it, but sources say Leno will be in what is called Stage 11, the largest on the lot. It has 18,300 square feet of space and 30-foot-high ceilings. He's personally involved in creating his new space and is said to be concerned about making it comedy-friendly. That will likely mean keeping the main performance stage close to the audience, having a steep incline to the grandstand so the laughs can flow and keeping the room temperature down -- because to a comic, a cool room increases the laughter.

Some things don't change. Because he's dyslexic, making it difficult for him to use a teleprompter, Leno will continue to use cue cards.