The return of Jay Leno to the Tonight Show has been a fairly low key affair, but his list of guests isn’t.
Leno’s first two weeks back as host of NBC’s long-running Tonight Show will feature a large lineup of stars as the Peacock tries to revive the late-night show along with Leno’s PR image.
The host will welcome former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, the cast of MTV’s controversial hit Jersey Shore, outgoing American Idol judge Simon Cowell and gold medal-winning Olympians Apolo Anton Ohno, Shaun White and Lindsey Vonn. Leno’s other guests his first couple weeks include Dakota Fanning, Kim Kardashian, Jamie Foxx and Morgan Freeman.
NBC’s Tonight Show with Leno returning to the desk is set for its re-launch on Monday.
The impressive lineup is sad news for fans of Conan O’Brien, who had hoped A-listers would boycott Leno’s Tonight Show by way of expressing their disapproval of Leno’s return and his enabling of the network to push O’Brien back in his time slot. The only person who has talked about a boycott of Leno’s Tonight Show was Will Ferrell, who told an Omaha, Neb., radio station that if asked he would not serve as a Leno Tonight guest and would instead call in sick.
NBC was desperate to keep both Leno and Conan O’Brien. The Peacock gave Leno a show five nights a week during prime-time and while his ratings were solid for late night, it was considered a failure for the time slot. Because of this, network affiliates complained that their nightly news show’s ratings tanked, which impacted Conan O’Brien’s new gig on The Tonight Show.
Some affiliates threatened to pull Leno and NBC proposed cutting his show to a half-hour at 11:35 p.m. and moving O’Brien back a half-hour. O’Brien balked and took a buyout from NBC.
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