Jay Leno arrives at the 2013 Vanity Fair Oscar Party...

Jay Leno arrives at the 2013 Vanity Fair Oscar Party hosted by Graydon Carter at Sunset Tower in West Hollywood, Calif., on Feb. 24, 2013. Credit: Getty Images/Pascal Le Segretain

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.

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