Is the Leno-Letterman rivalry cooling off?
The two late-night hosts, who will be competing for the 11:35 PM timeslot’s ratings once again when Jay Leno returns to “The Tonight Show” on March 1, appeared together for the first time in years in a Super Bowl ad on Sunday.
The ad, a spot for Letterman’s “Late Show,” revisited a 2007 ad featuring Oprah Winfrey and Letterman watching the big game. This time, however, Lenojoined the pair.
But how did it all come about?
The spot was taped earlier this week in the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York, where Letterman tapes the “Late Show,” CBS confirmed to Access Hollywood.
And as it turns out, “Late Show” executive producer Rob Burnett told the New York Times that the shoot had been Dave’s idea.
“This wasn’t done to help Dave or to help Jay,” he told the newspaper. “Though I think it does help both of them. It was just done because Dave thought it would be funny and would entertain people. Nothing went beyond that.”
When Leno was presented with the idea, he jumped at the chance to do it. Although, he had to get sign-off from top NBC executives, including chief NBC Universal executive Jeff Zucker.
In order to make it work, NBC agreed to pre-empt “The Jay Leno Show” on Tuesday night and the former “Tonight Show” host hopped on the NBC company jet to fly to New York.
Burnett added that the filming had been “very friendly.”
“It was very friendly, very professional, totally cordial,” he noted. “You could tell these were two guys who have known each other for a long time.”
CBS confirmed to Access that both Leno and Oprah snuck into the studio during a live taping of “Late Night” in disguise — with Leno even wearing a fake beard — to keep the taping a secret. The filming of the commercial, which took about a half hour, happened after Tuesday’s “Late Show” audience had been cleared out.
During the recent late-night shake-ups at NBC, Letterman used the opportunity to revisit his own “Tonight Show” controversy – when Leno earned the show’s hosting gig over himself back in 1992.
And Leno responded on “The Jay Leno Show,” joking in one episode, “You know the best way to get Letterman to ignore you? Marry him.”
The pair’s falling out was dramatized in the 1996 film “The Late Shift.”