With Conan O'Brien's stint as host of "The Tonight Show" over after just seven months, and many weeks of very public wrangling with Jay Leno and NBC, Leno is set to return to the "Tonight Show" helm March 1.
But, observes "Early Show" national correspondent Hattie Kauffman, Leno's nice-guy image took a hit when it looked like he was pushing O'Brien off "Tonight."
At one point, O'Brien himself joked on "Tonight" that, "You can do whatever you want in life -- unless Jay Leno wants it, too."
Now, says Kauffman, in what seems like image-repair mode, Leno sits down with Oprah Winfrey "for a daytime confessional," in a show scheduled to air today.
"A lot of people have taken sides, and they're not on your side. I can understand that."
"Have you talked to Conan personally since all this happened?" Winfrey wondered.
"No, I haven't," Leno replied.
Leno and O'Brien had been the punch-line of each other's jokes for weeks, but Leno tells Winfrey he's waiting for the dust to settle before reaching out, saying, "(Let's) let things cool down, and maybe we'll talk."
Leno has to "tell his side of the story," says Hollywood publicist Howard Bragman, "and remind people why they liked him in the first place, and what it was that made him No. 1 in late night for a decade-and-a-half."
And, says Kauffman, while Leno took it on the chin from other comics, he vows to carry on, telling Winfrey, "It's like being a fighter: You get punched in the head. Does it hurt? Yeah, but you're a fighter."
Meanwhile, days after his last "Tonight" show, O'Brien is still doing business with NBC, which says it bought a pilot from O'Brien's production company.
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