While the move to put Leno on in primetime has been and will continue to be scrutinized, the erstwhile Tonight Show host isn't overly concerned. "The network's on its own," Leno told reporters. "Screw them! I'm not here to save them." Separately, he added, "If we go down in flames, we'll be laughing on the way down."
The show premieres on Sept. 14 and Leno has taken advantage of the break since handing over Tonight to Conan O'Brien in May: He runs four miles a day and says he's lost 10 or 12 pounds.
What brought about his new found state of Zen? "I'm rich now," he said and then allowed more seriously that he'd left Tonight "in a bit of a rut."
The show itself was laid out thusly:
-There will be a fast opening sequence before Leno’s monologue;
-Guests will be limited to one to two per night;
-Musical segments will sometimes feature multiple acts performing together;
-A racetrack will be built outside NBC's Burbank soundstage where guests will race in eco-friendly cars;
-Comedy bits like “Jay Walking” will be saved for the end of the show, where Leno will tell viewers to stay tuned for the local news (this is the only part of the show where Leno might have a desk) and
-NBC will not air any commercials after Leno's show and is urging local affiliates to do the same
"When the comedy segment is over, it will literally end the show," NBC's late-night chief Rick Ludwin said. "We're giving [affiliates] the hottest hot hand off you can have."
Ludwin said the show will be on the air for at least a year -- regardless of ratings -- and will be reassessed after that.
Regarding O'Brien, Leno said the two have firmly remained friends.
"There was never any tension between Conan and I," he said. "Will we fight like cats and dogs to get the guest? Yes...but that doesn't mean you don't like each other. It's a game. You tease and trash talk, that's the fun part."
Ludwin, meanwhile, said it was wrong to call O'Brien "the king of late night" after only his first five shows. It was a declaration the network now regrets.
"We were very proud of the show and the numbers far exceeded our expectations, but we used that phrase in the headline and that was premature," Ludwin said.