Jay Leno may have landed the host desk of "The Tonight Show" on the strength of an extraordinary, hard-working schedule, crisscrossing the nation for years to build an audience for his act. But not even Leno can be in two places at one time.
Yet he sure seemed to achieve the feat Monday night, in a cute, albeit confusing, promotion on WMAR (Channel 2) just prior to his premiere on "Tonight." Did you see it?
Returning from a commercial break, anchor Sally Thorner was ready to sign off the news about 11:50 p.m. (running late because of an Orioles game) when Leno himself stepped onto the set, saying, "Wait a minute Sally, wait a minute." He reminded viewers to tune in his show, then was gone.
Moments later, Leno strolled out in front of the "Tonight" cameras for the first time as permanent host. And viewers were told the premiere was airing live from NBC studios in Burbank, Calif. -- actually, on a 20-minute tape delay here because of the baseball game. So how could he have been on the Baltimore set with Sally just minutes earlier?
Through the miracle of videotape, of course.
Channel 2 creative services director Kathleen Baylies says the Leno/Thorner spot was taped May 8, when the comedian breezed through the local NBC affiliate station on a promotional tour. Thorner merely had to make sure she wore the same dress for Monday's newscast, to make the illusion work.
"We thought that we'd have a little fun with him," she says, adding the idea originated here and that Leno presumably did not appear on multiple affiliate newscasts across the country at the same time.
Leno also taped an interview with reporter Mary Beth Marsden during the earlier visit, and that aired in Monday's newscast with a similarly murky time angle. Many viewers may have believed the host was in Baltimore the same day.
But hey, when Humphrey Bogart and Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong can be made to appear in soft drink commercials with present-day stars such as Elton John, the Leno stunt was an easy video time warp.
Earlier Monday night, viewers may also have noticed Leno plugging the late WMAR news, mentioning both Thorner and co-anchor Stan Stovall.
WINNERS AND LOSERS -- A pair of ABC series recently missing from the schedule return tonight, but for one show it is only a temporary thing.
"Anything But Love," at 9:30 p.m. (Channel 13), did not make the network's fall schedule. Tonight, Hannah (Jamie Lee Curtis) awaits the results of a biopsy on a small tumor in her mouth.
But "Civil Wars," at 10, did make the fall schedule in this time slot, with Mariel Hemingway and Peter Onorati as divorce attorney partners who are getting closer together personally.