Monday, January 18, 2010

The Jay Leno Special

Even in 1986, Jay Leno was a hot property at NBC. Frequent funny appearances as a guest on David Letterman's Late Night earned him a long-term development deal with the network that eventually evolved into the full-time hosting gig on the Tonight Show.

When The Jay Leno Special aired in 1986 - NBC probably hoped the show would spawn a series - possibly even replacing Saturday Night Live, which it pre-empted for one night. This was back when NBC allegedly offered the SNL slot to David Letterman - who wasn't interested.

Turns out the Leno special was disastrously unfunny (the New York Times called it a "clumpy mess"), and nothing ever became of it. For some bizarre reason, it was taped at Penn's Landing in Philadelphia - an outdoor venue. The audience was DEAD throughout, and I'm pretty sure it rained during the taping.

What I find most interesting about the special is that there is almost no evidence that it ever existed. There are no clips of it on YouTube, or mention of it on anybody's resumes at (And the show featured David Letterman and Vanna White as guest stars).