Late night fans got the surprise of a lifetime during the second quarter of the Super Bowl tonight when they saw Jay Leno sitting side-by-side with David Letterman in a promo for CBS’ Late Show. Appearing with Oprah Winfrey, Letterman laments about how bad the party is, and Leno retorts “he’s just saying that because I’m here.” Minutes after the spot (embedded below), CBS sent out word that the two late night stars taped the spot last Tuesday at the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York City. The spot was a revisit, of sorts, to a 2007 Super Bowl spot that featured Letterman and Winfrey. A Late Show spokesman said the spot was Letterman’s idea, and Leno and Winfrey were willing participants.
The promo was all the more surprising given the beating that Leno took last month by his fellow late night competitors over Conan O’Brien’s departure from NBC. Letterman was particularly critical, though he’d just as quickly turn the negative spotlight on himself by reminding everyone that NBC still didn’t want him for the Tonight Show. NBC, in the meantime, now has an uphill battle on its hands in having to promote the new Tonight Show with its old host Leno, though one insider commented that today’s promo certainly makes it a little easier. “It does a lot for all three in the commercial,” said the source.
And it certainly fits nicely with NBC Chairman Jeff Gaspin’s strategy of marketing Leno’s return with “some humor and a wink, not a sledgehammer.” “We will certainly be more subtle,” he told EW last month. “Fortunately the positive side of this public battle is that everybody knows what is going on, so you don’t have to create awareness. All we have to do is gently remind people when it starts. We’ll have the Olympics as a platform to let people know that Jay will be back on The Tonight Show starting March 1.”
More on the Leno-Letterman-Oprah Super Bowl ad:
EW’s TV critic Ken Tucker reacts to the Letterman-Leno “truce.”
Late Show exec producer Rob Burnett: Inside dish on how the ad came together