PASADENA, Calif. _ Stay tuned soon after your late local news for _ Jay Leno! Again!
After insisting for all of 2009 that its "revolutionary" plan to put "The Jay Leno Show" in prime time was a two-year experiment and that it was reinventing the 10 o'clock (Eastern and Pacific) hour of network TV, top executives for NBC admitted Sunday that the experiment was over.
Jeff Gaspin, the head of NBC Universal Entertainment, told TV critics that "The Jay Leno Show" would leave prime time after its Feb. 11 broadcast. He also confirmed that he'd put a proposal on the table to return "The Jay Leno Show" to 11:35 p.m., where Leno reigned for 17 years as host of "The Tonight Show," and reduce it to 30 minutes, followed by "The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien" and "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon," each bumped back a half hour from their current airtimes.
Gaspin also confirmed that, "I've got a fluid situation," which was as close as he came to admitting that the proposal wasn't acceptable to all parties yet. Specifically, multiple sources have reported that O'Brien wasn't happy with the plan and refused to agree to it, leaving his future at NBC uncertain and fueling rumors that he could be headed to Fox to compete with Leno.
The announcement capped a sensational 72-hour news cycle that began when an industry blog, FTVlive.com, reported that top NBC executives were considering moving Leno out of the 10 p.m. time slot. Details of Gaspin's plan soon surfaced, as did reactions from anonymous sources within the various camps, which were in negotiations Thursday and Friday with NBC.
O'Brien is said to be displeased with the idea of being made NBC's second banana again, despite succeeding Leno last year as "Tonight" host, a position he'd long coveted.
In his monologue during Friday's "Tonight Show" broadcast, O'Brien appeared tense as he told a series of jokes related to the situation.
"I'm sure you've heard all the rumors," O'Brien said. "NBC has come up with an exciting new idea _ they want me to follow Jay Leno."
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