That's it. Conan O'Brien has got his walking papers.

   The end.

  Or the beginning.

  NBC has confirmed finally.

  And just minutes ago, announced that Jay Leno will return to "The Tonight Show."

 
“We’re pleased that Jay is returning to host the franchise that he helmed
brilliantly and successfully for many years,” said Jeff Gaspin, NBCUni TV chairman.

“He is an enormous talent, a consummate professional and one of the hardest-working performers on television.”

>> PHOTOS: Conan O'Brien through the years

  Terms of Conan's severance:

 - Allowed to start new show somewhere else Sept. 1.

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 - Got $45 million total, a quarter of which goes to staff severance.

 - Last show tomorrow night (AP reports Tom Hanks was scheduled for Friday, as was Will Ferrell)

- Jay returns to "Tonight" March 1.

- Conan can't disparage NBC. (But really - what's there to disparage?)

 - Conan can't take any of the characters he/the show created during the 16-17 year run here, including Triumph the comic insult Rot, or the bear with onanistic tendencies, AKA the Masturbating Bear. (Questions that will never have an answer: Why would NBC want to retain ownership of a Masturbating Bear? What will NBC do with said character in the future?)
 

 Click here to get almost all your late night TV questions about Jay and Conan answered - and you know you have questions (who doesn't?)

 

  Here's the full statement: 

   
NBC and Conan O’Brien have reached a resolution of the issues surrounding
O’Brien’s contract to host “The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien.”

Under terms of an agreement that was signed earlier today, NBC and O’Brien will
settle their contractual obligations and the network will release O’Brien from
his contract, freeing him to pursue other opportunities after September 1, 2010.

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O’Brien will make his final appearance as host of “The Tonight Show” on January
22.

 

The Wrap first reported overnight that an announcement would come out later this morning, and a deal has been signed, etc.

   "The Today Show" reported as well. 

  "In the end, Conan was appreciative of the steps NBC made to take care of his staff and crew and decided to supplement the severance they were getting out of his own pocket," his agent/manager Gavin Polone told The Wrap early this morning (apparently the deal was signed around 1 a.m.). "Now he just wants to get back on the air as quickly as possible."
 

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  And you shall, Conan! You shall!

 Fox by September, though nothing certainly official there yet; that's me (and the rest of the press) just jumping the gun. 

  Problem with Fox will be the 100+ stations locked into long-term and doubtless lucrative snydication deals. Why would they want to dump those for a new late night show at 11? One reason may be that Fox will tell 'em to; the affiliation agreement still (reportedly) gives Fox dibs on 11.  But Fox may not want to get into a massive squabble with affiliates. Fox can instantly slot the new show at 11 on its 27 owned stations. But in many cities, New York most prominently, it owns both Ch. 5 and Ch. 9. A simulcast on both stations seems unlikely, to say the least.

  Another possibility, though: A simulcast on Fox and FX. I think this is a scenario you may hear about in the coming days and weeks. 

 Meanwhile: Here's the Associated Press's Lynn Elber wrap/backgrounder:


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In the late-night tradition of a star-studded goodbye, O'Brien's guests Thursday include such big names as Robin Williams and Barry Manilow. Tom Hanks was scheduled for
Friday, as was Will Ferrell — the first guest O'Brien welcomed when he started last June as "Tonight" host.And then there was this joke from his monologue Tuesday: "Hi,
I'm Conan O'Brien, and I'm just three days away from the biggest drinking binge in history."

>> PHOTOS: Conan O'Brien through the years


It was yet another indication that he's bracing for the bitter end of his brief tenure at "Tonight," less than eight months after taking over as host from Jay Leno. The show
previously had been scheduled for reruns next week.The red-headed comedian was negotiating with NBC for a severance package of more than $30 million, which would clear the way for Leno to return to late night. The proposed deal would allow O'Brien to work at another network as soon as this fall.

The announcement of an agreement came after the sides worked to resolve the final hurdle: compensation for O'Brien's staff and crew of about 200 people.

O'Brien was said to be "dug in" on the issue out of concern for the workers, while NBC said this week that it had already agreed to pay "millions of dollars to compensate every one of them" and deemed it a public relations "ploy."

Meanwhile, the comedy assault on NBC continued on "The Jay Leno Show."

Referring to the stormy California weather Wednesday, Leno said, "this rain couldn't have come at a worse possible time. Today was the day NBC was supposed to burn down the studio for the insurance money."

NBC's effort to keep both O'Brien and Leno at the network ran aground when Leno's experimental prime-show show drew poor ratings and affiliate complaints that forced its
cancellation. When NBC proposed moving Leno back to 11:35 p.m. EST with a half-hour show, O'Brien refused to host "Tonight" at 12:05 a.m.

O'Brien, after posting lackluster numbers, has seen his viewership jump in recent days. His Monday night Nielsen Co. rating was up more than 60 percent in total viewers over the previous fourth quarter average and up about 80 percent among advertiser-favored young adults.

Fox executives have expressed admiration for O'Brien but said they couldn't discuss opportunities with him while he's under contract to NBC.

O'Brien's recent "Tonight" monologues have been notable for a barrage of jokes at the expense of NBC and Leno ("I just want to say to the kids out there watching: You can do anything you want in life, unless Jay Leno wants to do it, too," was one crack).

His final shows may be far less celebratory than those of his long-serving predecessors but, like them, he'll have top-notch company.

Johnny Carson's final guests, after 30 years at "Tonight," were Williams and Bette Midler, who appeared on his second-to-last broadcast. Carson hosted his final show in 1992
without guests.

When Leno left "Tonight" last May after 17 years, his final week of shows included Mel Gibson, Prince and Billy Crystal. Leno's final guest on his last show was his then-successor, O'Brien.
 

>> PHOTOS: Conan O'Brien through the years