What's Next for Jay Leno?

Comedian Jay Leno performs during the Jay Leno Comedy Stimulus Plan show at the Roberts Centre in Wilmington, Ohio on May 10, 2009.
AP Photo/David Kohl, file
What's next for Jay Leno?

Now that the plug's been pulled on the primetime "Jay Leno Show" after just four months, NBC wants to move him back to his old slot at 11:35 p.m.

But will it happen?

After all, that slot's already filled by Conan O'Brien on Leno's former hit, "The Tonight Show." Will O'Brien relinquish his time slot for a 12:05 a.m. start to make way for Leno's return to 11:30?

NBC: Leno's Show to End in February

Stephen Battaglio, business editor of TV Guide magazine, said on "The Early Show" the move may or may not be up to O'Brien. Instead, he said, contracts could be the deciding factor.

Battaglio said, "Conan passed up an opportunity to go to Fox in 2004. He was promised 'The Tonight Show' five years later. Does that contract say that the show has to start at 11:35? I can't tell you. But clearly this is something that he was not -- you know, he was promised a show that started -- for years -- has started at 11:30. It's starting at 12:05. I think it's something he has to think about."

However, Battaglio said he's heard the network hopes to keep all of its late-night comedians: Leno, O'Brien and Jimmy Fallon.

If the changes went through, Fallon would appear at 1:05 a.m.

"(Falon) will have plenty of time to experiment," Battaglio joked. "You know, that's late."

He added, "They're trying to make the best of a very bad situation here."

Leno wasn't getting the ratings the affiliates needed to lead into their 11:00 broadcasts, Battaglio said.

"Jay's show just did not work at 10:00," he said. "Jay loves to do the monologue. But I think the expectation for viewers in primetime was a really more fully-produced comedy show. They weren't getting that. And he was getting a late-night rating in primetime. That just wasn't good enough."

He said, "The affiliates were rising up. ... Many of them were beginning to threaten, or at least make noise, about pre-empting Jay's show, because it was hurting them so badly at 11:00."

Nancy Giles, a contributor to CBS News "Sunday Morning," said it could be karma coming around to Leno for eliminating actors', writers' and producers' jobs upon his departure from "The Tonight Show."

She said, "He bragged about how he was going to be saving NBC all this money from trivial things like TV shows, you know?"

But comedian Chuck Nice disagreed.

"It's not (Leno's) fault. It's NBC," he said. "They wanted to go younger. And so they did. And then the old guy (David Letterman) at CBS kicked their hind parts. So that's really what happened."

Nice said Leno has always been an underdog at the network.

"The handoff to the 'Tonight Show' was a little awkward. And then right after he becomes No. 1 they announce, 'Look, we want to give it to a younger guy. We want to go younger,'" Nice said. "So it's like they've never really given him the respect he deserves."

But now, Nice said, Leno's in a good spot.

"They're backing up a Brink's (truck) to make him comfortable," he said. "But, quite frankly, you know, they kind of stepped in it. And as far as I'm concerned, I would love to be Jay Leno right now, to step in poop, and come up smelling like a rose would be awesome."