Not even a year away from "The Tonight Show," Jay Leno is expected to mount a comeback -- as host of a primetime CNBC series about cars.
Leno's anticipated reentry was first reported Wednesday by the Hollywood Reporter, which cited sources saying he had been approached by a variety of networks like the History Channel, CNN and A&E - as was widely known in the wake of his departure from "Tonight" in February. CNN, in fact, was believed to have sent out feelers about a 9 p.m. weeknight talk/comedy series.
But CNBC - which declined to comment on the report -- is a surprise. CNBC has been in the midst of a prolonged ratings slump, but a Leno series -- even one about cars -- would be a radical departure for a network that was once one of NBCUniversal's shining stars.
Would Leno's car series air nightly or more infrequently? That question was left hanging yesterday too.
Leno - whose "Leno's Garage" remains a popular fixture on NBC.com - had made reasonably clear upon his departure from "Tonight" that he would never return to a late-night comedy hosting job, and the move to CNBC would certainly appear to be consistent with that declaration.
Indeed, in one obvious sense, a series about cars would present the perfect middle-ground solution for someone who - at 64 - is not predisposed to putter around the house. He continues a relentless stand-up career and maintains a vast personal car collection. Cars, in fact, may well be a subject Leno knows even more about than comedy.