The state-of-the-art studio that housed The Tonight Show With Conan O’Brien is getting a new late-night occupant. E!’s Chelsea Lately will move into the space, Studio 1 on the Universal lot, later this year, probably in the fourth quarter. Stage 1, named The Jack Benny Stage, has remained largely vacant since the quick demise of The Tonight Show With Conan O’Brien as Jay Leno, who was brought back as host in March 2010, opted to stay at his old stomping grounds in Burbank.
When plans were announced for O’Brien to take over The Tonight Show, NBC spent a reported $50 million to transform Stage 1 — which housed The Jack Benny Show, the first TV show shot at Universal, as well as the original Knight Rider TV series — into a lavish talk show set custom-made to accommodate comedy skits, a band, and a large studio audience. (Chelsea Lately‘s studio audience is expected to double when the show moves into the new digs.) It is also near huge parking garages and major city thoroughfares.
The announcement, made during an E! luncheon at the TCA winter press tour (sans the Tonight Show With Conan O’Brien connection), comes less than two months after Handler signed a new $25 million deal with E! to continue as host and executive producer of Chelsea Lately through 2014 and develop and produce other shows through her company, Borderline Amazing Prods. In addition to Chelsea Lately, E! also hopes to use the new stage to test potential new talk shows, which may include some of the late-night companions to Chelsea Lately that Borderline Amazing has in development. Chelsea Lately has been a strong ratings performer, especially in the young demos. Last June, it beat O’Brien’s new TBS talk show in total viewers, adults 18-49 and adults 18-34. This is the first show of E!, formerly own by Comcast, to move to a facility owned by the NBC Universal side of the merged Comcast-NBCUni. Also at the luncheon, E! announced that Joan Rivers’ weekly show Fashion Police is expanding from a half-hour to an hour.