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CNN Wants Jay Leno After His 'Tonight Show' Run Ends

Like a bad habit, Jeff Zucker just can't quit Jay Leno. According to several reports, the CNN president visited Leno to talk about the outgoing Tonight Show host joining CNN, with former Deadline editor Nikki Finke reporting that Zucker wants a late-night comedy show. Zucker previously masterminded the Tonight Show debacle between Leno and Conan O'Brien before being forced out of NBC.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Leno won't "entertain offers until the host fulfills his obligation to NBC on Feb. 6."

Leno going to CNN (or any rival network, for that matter) and starting a new late-night program is the last thing NBC wants. Their fear of Leno going head-to-head against his Tonight Show successor is the reason the network gave Leno a show at 10 p.m. the last time he "retired" from The Tonight Show. Remember how that one worked out? I'm not one to support Leno, but he is riding an unprecedented level of late-night ratings success — why wouldn't he feel emboldened to go out and get a new show to remind NBC what they lost?

For those keeping score at home, after rumors started flying back in March that NBC was looking to replace Leno with Jimmy Fallon, I looked at five questions facing the late-night TV landscape. Of the five, four have been answered, and it looks like I was dead right on three of them.

When will Jimmy Fallon replace Jay Leno as host of The Tonight Show? NBC wanted Fallon's Tonight Show run to begin in February to take advantage of the Olympics. Lorne Michaels wanted to wait until fall. I said we'd see Fallon take over in February since NBC couldn't pass up using the Olympics to promote the new show. Verdict: Fallon begins his time as Tonight Show on Feb. 17, 2014, right after the Olympics.

Where will Jay Leno go after The Tonight Show? Everyone always wants to guess Fox when there's a free agent late-night host. I said Leno wouldn't go to Fox, since unlike the other networks, Fox has a disjointed group of affiliates who they would have to convince to forgo syndicated reruns to allow Leno to have a show. I said Leno would go to cable. Verdict: If the CNN move works out, Leno will be on cable.

Would David Letterman retire and who would replace him? With Leno finally retiring, Letterman would be able to claim late-night victory. I guessed that Letterman would play out the rest of his contract and then retire, with O'Brien once again replacing Letterman. Verdict: Nope, Letterman is sticking around. He recently signed a new contract with CBS that'll keep him around until at least 2015.

With Fallon leaving Late Night, who's in line to replace him as that show's host? A ton of guesses regarding Fallon's Late Night were thrown around — and most of them were stupid. Howard Stern and Tina Fey were never going to give up everything they've achieved to be the second-fiddle NBC late-night talk show host. I was one of the first to point at Seth Meyers' Weekend Update anchor experience and his connection to Michaels and say he would be the guy to follow Fallon. Verdict: Meyers is the next Late Night host.
CNN Wants Jay Leno After His 'Tonight Show' Run Ends Reviewed by Bill Kuchman on 12/19/2013 Rating: 5

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