A week after The Hollywood Reporter exclusively revealed that Jay Leno was close to a deal to host a new primetime CNBC series about cars, the network made the news official, announcing that the show, tentatively titled Jay Leno’s Garage, will premiere in 2015.
The show will be Leno’s first regular TV hosting job since he left The Tonight Show in February and keeps him in the NBCUniversal family.
The weekly, hour-long CNBC series will be based on Leno’s Emmy Award-winning web series Jay Leno’s Garage, which is hosted on NBC.com, and will cover all things automotive including classic cars, super cars, restoration projects, road tests, investments and the inner workings of the car collectors’ market.
“This show will be about anything that rolls, explodes and makes noise,” Leno said in a statement. “We hope to highlight the passion and the stories behind the men and women who made the automobile the greatest invention of the 20th century.”
Landing Leno is a coup for CNBC, which has been trying to broaden its viewership by airing reality shows like The Profit and Restaurant Startup in primetime. Its biggest draw is reruns of financial game show Shark Tank, which have performed very well for the network.
Leno, 64, has been looking for the right home since he passed the Tonight Show baton to Jimmy Fallon. Sources say he was courted by several outlets, including CNN, A&E, History and the Tribune stations. But Leno has been loyal to NBC, and he has a relationship with CNBC president Mark Hoffman. CNBC aired a special over the Labor Day weekend called Jay’s Garage: The Ultimate Car Week.
“Jay will add tremendous star power and exceptional content to CNBC’s primetime at the perfect time,” Hoffman said in a statement. “CNBC at night has real momentum and Jay’s personality, tremendous fan base and his passion for the subject will contribute mightily to our burgeoning primetime. We’re really excited Jay will continue his storied career with the NBC family and with us at CNBC.”
Leno hasn’t slowed down since giving up his nightly NBC perch after 22 years. Unlike his Tonight Show predecessor Johnny Carson, who mostly disappeared from the public eye when he left the show in 1992, the famously workaholic Leno has kept busy. He has toured the country with his stand-up act, hosted an awards show in Jerusalem in May and earlier this month joined NBC’s Al Roker and others in Afghanistan to launch a USO tour.
NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt, who famously clashed with Leno when the comic took aim at NBC’s low primetime ratings, said last summer that he hoped to keep Leno in the NBC family in an elder statesman role. “Nothing would make us happier than for him, a la Bob Hope, to still be a presence on the network,” Greenblatt said during the TCA summer press tour in July 2013.
NBC’s Today aired the below interview with Leno from his Burbank garage on Wednesday morning’s show in conjunction with the news.
When asked whether fans of his comedy would be a fan of him as a car-show host, Leno said of his new show, “I think we’ll have some humor in it. We’ll have some occasional celebrities with their cars, that kind of thing.”
11:48 a.m. This story has been updated with more information from Leno’s Wednesday morning interview on Today.