Bill Carter, who wrote the superb book about the battle for Johnny Carson’s time slot, The Late Shift, looks to be working on a sequel. In this article in the New York Times, Carter discusses the battle royale heating up over Jay Leno, a host whose popularity baffles me to no end. Leno is scheduled to exit “The Tonight Show” next year, with Conan O’Brien moving to Burbank and taking over the gig.
It also appears that Lorne Michaels is looking to install Jimmy Fallon as Conan’s replacement, though I would have imagined there might be some moves afoot to wrestle Jon Stewart away from Comedy Central. Sony is prepared to pay Leno mightily to start a new lookalike program on another network, something to the tune of $40 million a year.
The jaw-dropper in the story is the penalty NBC would have to pay Conan if the network were to go back on its promise to him and try to retain Leno: $45 million. Read it all here.