Confirming the painfully obvious Sunday, NBC said "The Jay Leno Show" would be mercy-killed Feb. 11, while the host will return to 11:35 p.m. after the Winter Olympics ends Feb. 28.

The announcement was official Sunday although it was clear NBC badly wanted to make this one last week, and arrive at the biannual press tour in Pasadena armed with news that Leno's new/old 11:35 p.m. show would be followed by an hourlong "Tonight Show" still hosted by Conan O'Brien.

But the fates of late night TV were not to be so kind. Jeff Gaspin, NBC Universal TV Entertainment chairman, told writers Sunday, "My goal right now is to keep Jay, Conan and Jimmy [Fallon] as part of our late-night lineup. As much as I'd like to tell you we have a done deal, we know that's not true."

In fact the demise of "The Jay Leno Show" - fated to be an asterisk in TV history a day after the last edition - is overshadowed by a decision that O'Brien has yet to make: whether to go to midnight or leave NBC altogether for Fox, ABC or even cable. Gaspin declined to go into details.

"They all understood the situation I was in," Gaspin said referring to his late-night team. "Beyond that, it was a private conversation."

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Of the "The Jay Leno Show," Gaspin told writers - as reported on the Hollywood Reporter's Live Feed blog, "I would have liked nothing more than to give this a 52-week try, [but] affiliates started calling, saying local news was being impacted more than expected. In some cases, they had the No. 1 news show, and now they were No. 3."

Gaspin said he made the decision to finish off "The Jay Leno Show" before the holidays, and had briefed his boss, NBC Universal chief Jeff Zucker, "of all the possible changes I could make," Gaspin said. "[I told him] this was our best choice and probably our only choice."

Of those choices, Gaspin could probably have dumped one or two weeknight editions of "The Jay Leno Show," buying time to develop more 10 p.m. dramas. But from his remarks Sunday, it was clear even that move wouldn't have gotten stations off his back, or NBC's.

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So, that's it: The inglorious end of a curious move designed to keep a valued and talented late-night star, Leno, from leaving, and now the aftermath - which qualifies as the hard part. Gaspin said a "reality hour," "Dateline" repeats, and "two hours of scripteds" will take the place of "Jay Leno" in March.

Then, there's that matter of Conan.