Leno wasted no time milking the storm of speculation about his fate for comedy gold, hitting the topic hard right out of the gate on last night’s show.
“As you may have heard, there’s a rumor floating around that we were canceled. … I heard it coming in this morning on the radio,” Leno began. “So far, nobody’s said anything to me, but if we did get canceled, it’d give us time to maybe do some traveling. I understand Fox is lovely this time of year.”
Ka-zing! Leno: 1, NBC execs: 0
But the beleaguered host wasn’t done just yet.
“I don’t think there’s any truth to the rumors,” he continued. “See, it’s always been my experience NBC only cancels you when you’re in first place, so we’re fine.”
Ka-pow! Leno: 2, NBC execs: 0
And one more shot for good measure.
“Hey Kev,” the comedian asked his band leader Kevin Eubanks. “What does NBC stand for? Never believe your contract.”
Ka-Boom! TKO for Leno.
While NBC execs left the fate of Conan O’Brien and Jimmy Fallon hanging in the wind for most of yesterday, they issued a pretty nebulous “endorsement” of the “Tonight Show” heir late in the day.
“We remain committed to keeping Conan O’Brien on NBC,” the statement read. “He is a valued part of our late-night lineup, as he has been for more than 16 years, and is one of the most respected entertainers on television.”
So even though the network made it clear they don’t want O’Brien jumping ship, they didn’t say he’d stay where he is.
In fact, the latest round of gossip paints a scenario where Leno would move back to 11:30 for a half-hour show and O’Brien would be presented with the choice of doing his thing from midnight to 1 a.m. or hitting the highway.
Since NBC execs are supposed to be holding a press conference on Sunday during the semiannual Television Critics Tour, we can probably expect an official announcement on the fate of Leno, O’Brien and Fallon then.
Friday, January 8
Mary J. Blige – “The Ellen DeGeneres Show”
Brad Wollack,Donnell Rawlings, Jen Kirkman – “Chelsea Lately”
The Dodos – “Late Show with David Letterman”
Aziz Ansari, OK Go – “The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien”
Nick Jonas & The Administration – “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon”
Colbie Caillat – “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”
Metric – “Last Call with Carson Daly” – rerun
Saturday, January 9
Alicia Keys – “Saturday Night Live” – rerun
Allen Toussaint – “Austin City Limits”