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It’s official: NBC kicks Jay Leno out of prime time

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It’s a mess. That’s about the nicest way to describe the situation that NBC finds itself in right now with three of its talk show hosts, Jay Leno, Conan O’Brien, and Jimmy Fallon. Rumors of the demise of Jay Leno’s low rated prime time talk show have been swirling around for a while. Then last week, those rumors, all over the Internet and elsewhere, became a firestorm, fueled by leaks that Leno was headed back to late night.

Today, Jeff Gaspin, chairman of NBC Universal Television Entertainment, made the announcement at the Television Critics Association Press Tour in Pasadena. Gaspin spoke to the media and got right to the point: “… I can confirm what many of you have been reporting: starting February ‘The Jay Leno Show’ will no longer air at 10 PM. While it was performing at acceptable levels for the network, it did not meet our affiliates’ needs and we realized we had to make a change.”

If he had his way, Gaspin would have “The Jay Leno Show” start at 11:35 p.m., followed by “The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien” at 12:05 a.m., and then “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” at 1:05 a.m. However, Gaspin admits nothing is confirmed and that the talks with the hosts and their reps are ongoing.  

“The Jay Leno Show” is expected to get the boot out of prime time by February 12,  when NBC begins airing the Winter Olympics. Let me just say here that Leno should have been allowed to stay on the “Tonight Show.” His ratings were high, even during the 2007-2008 writers strike. That’s right, folks were willing to watch Leno even without a great monologue and celebrity guests. It wasn’t broke, but NBC executives decided to fix it anyway. And look what happened!

Nikki Finke has an extensive report on Gaspin’s comments and the NBC debacle on her Deadline Hollywood site.

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