Jay Leno Giving NBC Late Night Fits

Monday, 15 Oct 2007 12:20 PM

By Rod Proctor

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“Tonight Show” host Jay Leno is having second thoughts about his announced 2009 departure from the late-night scene, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The newspaper reports that three unidentified people close to the situation confirmed Leno’s displeasure with arrangements made in 2004 to turn the host’s chair over to Conan O’Brien.

New York Post gossip columnist Cindy Adams wrote in March that Leno was unhappy with the agreement and wanted to hang on to his job. She also reported that ABC and Fox were interested in Leno for late-night duty.

Should Leno and NBC renege on the agreement, the network would have to pay O’Brien a default fee of $40 million, according to the Times.

“We are working with Jay to convince him that there is life beyond late night,” Marc Graboff, co-chairman of NBC Entertainment, tells the paper. “He’s a great talent. We really want to stay in business with him.”

In 1992, NBC found itself at the center of an ugly contest between Leno and David Letterman to succeed longtime host Johnny Carson, and according to a former network executive, had hoped to avoid a similar fight upon Leno’s retirement. “It’s 1992 all over again,” Warren Littlefield, NBC’s entertainment president then, tells the Times. “They are right back in the same situation . . . History may be repeating itself for NBC.”

Just last week, NBC announced plans to sell its Burbank studio lot, home of “The Tonight Show,” and move the show to Universal City when O’Brien takes over.

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