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Jay Leno may regain 'Tonight Show' perch (Updated)

Could Jay Leno get his old job back?

According to sources familiar with the situation, the network is in discussions about putting the comedian back on at his original 11:30 p.m. perch, either as a lead-in to "Tonight Show" host Conan O'Brien or replacing him altogether.Leno

NBC officials declined to comment on that specific scenario, the latest of a flurry of rumors to leak out of the peacock network today.

The television industry website FTVLive kicked off a series of reports today about Leno’s future in a post that said NBC had decided to cancel the show. Such a move would amount to a major retreat by the network, which has insisted that stripping Leno’s comedy show across the week has been a success financially, even if the ratings have been lackluster.

Leno's late-night replacement, Conan O'Brien, has not performed well either, and now apparently the network wants to put Leno back at 11:30 and slide O'Brien to midnight, according to people close to the situation. The news that NBC was considering bumping O'Brien out of his time slot was first reported by TMZ.

[Updated 4:50 p.m.: NBC just released a statement regarding O'Brien's future. "We have the best comedy team in the business. We remain committed to keeping Conan O’Brien on NBC. He is a valued part of our late-night line-up, as he has been for more than 16 years and is one of the most respected entertainers on television."]
NBC has felt tremendous pressure from its affiliates over Leno's performance and have been pushing the network to return to scripted programming. This season NBC has averaged 5.34 million viewers at 10 p.m., a 29% drop from the same period last season.

[Updated at 5:20 p.m.: Leno addressed the rumors head-on during his monologue tonight, joking that NBC stands for "Never Believe Your Contract." Read more details on our Showtracker blog.]

-- Joe Flint and Matea Gold

Comments () | Archives (125)

Don't listen to the Conan haters, NBC. For every one of them there is at least one twenty or thirty-something who started watching the Tonight Show again after Conan took over. Otherwise just call yourselves the old and tired network and cede your entire under-forty audience to Stewart and Colbert.

And yet Letterman is still kicking it, nice move NBC you should have hired him. Though I have to say, I am a Conan fan and only find Leno funny when I can't find the remote.

So does this mean Jay gets 30 minutes, Conan gets 30 minutes and Jimmy Fallon gets an HOUR? If they put Conan on at 12:00 to 1:00 opposite Jimmy Kimmel then that might work. Give Jimmy Fallon 30 minutes and fire Carson Daly.

I never thought Jay Leno was that funny, but I always figured he was a nice guy. Turns out I was wrong about that second part.

I have never ever enjoyed one Conan Show. The guy has no talent at all, just awkwardness. Jay on the other hand has the gift, talent and the personality for the show. I wish he would get his Tonight show back. Johny Carson picked the right person to replace him, NBC should have left Jay on the Tonight Show.

I haven't watched TV in teen years so Who cares!!

NBC, if you're smart -- but knowing you're not, you'll keep Conan as the host of the Tonight Show. You've managed to keep Carson Daly on the air all this time, and you've given Jimmy Fallon an opportunity to ruin Late Night, so how about you keep things right?

New Generation, New Direction, New Year, Keep Conan as host. Leno is in the past, and so are his jokes... when Jay hosted the Tonight Show I was watching Letterman instead. You've got a good thing going, if you do one thing right (before you belly up and become CBS) -- make sure you keep Conan in the Tonight Show slot.

Conan is, as he has always been, one of the most boring talk show hosts of all time. As things stand now, the "Tonight Show" is over.

For as much as I like Leno as a person - NOT a comedian - I think he really, really, really screwed over Conan by deciding at the last minute to have his own talk show before The Tonight Show. I clearly remember when he made the announcement that he was "giving" the Tonight Show to Conan, it was because he wanted to avoid the same drama that happened between Leno & Letterman, that he thought Conan earned, and as he (Leno) has repeatedly said afterwards, that he would be ready to retire in 2009 since 16 years was a good run.

But rather than bow out gracefully & respectfully on a high note, he instead inks a last minute deal with NBC to carry on with a new show, take ALL the thunder out of his stepping down from The Tonight Show and the subsequent "passing of the torch" to Conan, destroyed any legacy he once had, single-handedly killed the entire network due to his old fart "comedy" aimed at 80 year olds replacing quality drama programming, and basically killed any chance Conan had to mold & build his own Tonight Show since most people are talk-showed out by the time Leno is over.

Leno either needs to pack up & leave NBC altogether, or move his attention mongering butt over to another network. But seeing as though he went on record to say that, yes, he would indeed take The Tonight Show back from Conan "if that's what NBC wanted to do", it appears he is clearly out for himself and will gladly step on whoever he has to - including his supposed "good friends" - if it means staying in the spotlight. And nothing could be more humiliating for Conan than getting replaced or bumped BECAUSE OF Leno, especially after moving himself and entire staff from New York to LA specifically FOR The Tonight Show. It just goes to show what kind of underhanded shenanigans probably went on when it came to the Leno/Letterman battle for The Tonight Show 16 years ago - another relationship destroyed between two guys who were supposedly friends, so much so that Letterman used to always have Leno on HIS show. Jay clearly has his own, and ONLY his own, interests in mind. Which is a shame because I used to respect this guy even though I didn't care for his comedy.

Fire the idiots who make these decisions at NBC. What a bunch of clowns. While your at it, fire Leno and Conan. Why doesn't anyone look around for someone with talent? Are there no talented entertainers who need jobs in Hollywood?

Jay Leno is to TV and Comedy what the McNugget is to Cuisine. He sucks. This entire escapade into prime time was his grand idea, and now that its a failure, what does NBC do? Keep him around! Another example of someone at the top of an industry "failing up". Leno should be left in the dustbin of TV history. Let him while away the hours in his zillion dollar garage with is jillion dollar steam-powered cars. The most appropriate venue for Jay Leno would be somewhere in Branson, MO.

Oh crap! Look, I'm 52 and think Conan is more funny than Leno. Fallon sucks and I never watch his show. So just let Leno go away (he's had his time in the sun) and give Conan a chance to build a 11:30 audience.

Leno's new show ratings are terrible. If he was so popular, more people would be watching his show at the earlier time slot which is soemthing many enjoyed. It would be ridiculous to bring back someone who had said he would retire after already passing the reins to someone else and giving Leno his own new show to keep him around. Why not move Leno's time slot before the change? Makes no sense now.

Conan is awful. He's not funny, he's irritating and lame. Even his hair is annoying.

Fallon seems nice enough but his inexperience shows. He should have stayed on SNL.

The best late night guy of all is Craig Ferguson. That man is funny as heck and charming too.

Conan is awful. He's obnoxious and beyond unfunny. Even his hair is obnoxious.

Fallon is nice enough but he has zero talent as a talk show host and is painful to watch. He should have stayed on SNL-he was hilariously funny.

The best late night guy of all is Craig Ferguson. That man is funny as hell and has charm, wit and brains to boot.

if this happens i will boycott NBC, Conan > Leno forever!!!

It's time to axed Conan O’Brien! He is not that funny! I want Jay Leno to be back to his old slot!!

leno sux

I agree with the majority of people posting who say Leno is an overrated hack who never should have got the "Tonight Show" gig over Dave in the first place.
Letterman is funnier and his writers always have been better than Leno's.
This is the ghost of Carson coming back to haunt NBC.
Good riddance Mr. Leno. Now can we have "Law & Order" and "SVU" back on at 10 where they belong?


Jay does much better skits than Conan and he needs an hour to do that. Give Leno back the Tonight Show for one hour and get Conan his own show for half an hour.

Imagine that Johnny Carson had simply moved to a 10 pm time slot when he retired (instead of actually retiring), NOBODY would have given Jay Leno a chance. NBC set-up an insurmountable obstacle for Conan O'Brien, sabotaging his chances to win the audience. Jay Leno needs to actually RETIRE and get off the farkin TV.

Jay Leno is one smart person and very funny Sure I like others but there is only one Leno, that said it all!
Bubba (Ga)

I'll stick with Letterman.

To me it seems obvious that Conan is the odd man out. They should have never moved Leno and frankly Jimmy Fallon is just better than Conan and speaks to a key demo way better than COB. Conan may be a nice guy, but he's just not that good.

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