The Big Picture

Patrick Goldstein and James Rainey
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Jeff Zucker on Nikki Finke: Nikki who???

June 5, 2009 | 11:35 am

Jeffzucker The incredibly industrious bloggers at New York magazine's Vulture blog never take anything lying down. So Vulture's Yelena Shuster sprung into action when she read Deadline Hollywood's Nikki Finke's report yesterday in which she claimed that NBC had demanded that Jay Leno "back off booking A-list celebrities because it would encroach on Conan O'Brien's turf," meaning that the network was clearly playing favorites with its new "Tonight Show" host, at its old "Tonight Show" host's expense.

Shuster ran right out to a posh Founders Club Celebration at the Rockefeller Center Channel Garden last night where she managed to briefly ambush Zucker himself. So was it really true that the NBC Universal chief had put the squeeze on Leno, as Nikki had reported? Before Zucker could hurtle a few table tops and scurry away, here's exactly what he had to say on the subject in dialogue that I have to say sounds suspiciously like an outtake from an old Groucho Marx routine:  

Vulture: Nikki Finke reported that —
Zucker: I don't know who that is.

Vulture: Okay, well she reported that NBC is trying to block Jay Leno from booking A-list guests. Is that correct?
Zucker: Is that a serious question?

Vulture: Yes.
Zucker: No.

Vulture: She reported that NBC doesn't want him to steal the thunder from Conan.
Zucker: No. Please. There's no truth to that.

Photo of Jeff Zucker by Chris Haston/ Associated Press