It's a little past 8:30 p.m. on a weekday on the Warner Bros. lot and on the set of his talk show, Rove LA, host Rove McManus has one very important question: "Is any of this show going to make it to the telly?"
His show has already been taping for more than an hour, but it's a fair question. That's because this is the first time the Australian native has to deal with the c-word: censors. Season 2 — which premieres Saturday at midnight/11c on TV Guide Network with guests Russell Brand, Adam Lambert and 30 Rock's Kristen Schaal — marks the first time Rove LA will air new episodes in the U.S. McManus is still figuring out just what he can get away with here in the states.
"One of the things I like being is honest and real," he tells TVGuide.com of why he enjoys pushing the boundaries. "Rather than just try to find a way around it, we turn it into a segment on the show — let's just test now what we can and can't say. That's one of the other things that hopefully makes our show a little bit different. [We can] be very open to the audience about it ... even if something is going drastically wrong."
McManus comes to American audiences for the first time after having already made quite the name for himself in Australia. From 1999-2009, McManus hosted the popular variety show Rove (later known as Rove Live) and built his reputation as the Jay Leno of Australia. In 2011, he decided to head west and film a new show for Australian audiences from Los Angeles. "We would have guests on the show who would always say what a great experience this was and how they wish there was something like this back home," he says.
By moving to Hollywood McManus hoped for an influx of bigger talent. "When we first arrived, we hadn't really told anybody that that was part of the reason ... because we weren't sure we would get them. It's different when you're the big fish in the small pond," he says. "Coming to Los Angeles, I realized there are a lot of other talk shows here and a lot of them have a lot more experience and cache then we do. We are suddenly a lot further down the totem pole."
Luckily, McManus didn't have much to worry about. The first season of Rove LA attracted big name guests includin Steve Carell, Eva Longoria and Justin Timberlake among many others, and TV Guide Network soon came calling about airing the upcoming second season of the show. "It's a fantastic opportunity and I'm very, very grateful for it," he says. "It's also mainly for the guests themselves, who would come on the show and have such a great time and want to tell people to watch it."
Part of the appeal for celebrity guests lies in Rove LA's unusual set-up. Unlike most American late-night shows, all three guests are on stage for the entire show. But instead of just talking to the host, all three sit together on a couch and chat with each other, as well as McManus. The idea for the format came straight from his experiences working on his former show. "I would see an incredible crossover of guests backstage. I saw John Travolta walk into a room and see The Wiggles and lose his mind because his kids are fans," he says. "I've seen KISS in full make-up clamoring to get a photo with Sir Anthony Hopkins. It's moments like this that happen backstage that you would never see happen onstage. So, the idea was to bring that green room, backstage feel onto the set."
It also helps that the guests are allowed to drink alcohol during the show. "Part of me was thinking, 'If they're this comfortable off-camera, they can surely be this comfortable on-camera if we strip away the pressure of feeling like you're sitting down to an exam about yourself that you haven't studied for," he says.
However, less pressure for the celebrity guests means more pressure on the live studio audience. Not only does the audience have to bring lots of energy — there is no applause sign or laugh track — but audience members are also frequently invited to participate via gags like the audience suggestion box. "It keeps it completely unpredictable," McManus says. "The best way to make sure you don't know what's happening next is to go to someone who has no involvement with the show. That's the audience. Someone can tweet from home about not liking their husband's beard and we can talk about it, but if the guy's actually in the room, we can shave it off and that makes for better television."
It's this unpredictability McManus hopes will help Rove LA stand out from the Lenos, Lettermans, Kimmels and other late-night hosts. "You couldn't switch on our show at any point and know exactly what's going to happen," he says. "And that's what I love about it."
The new season of Rove LA premieres on Saturday, Oct. 6 at midnight on TV Guide Network.
Get a sneak peek at ankle-licking fun here: