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Why is NBC messing with Jay Leno again? Theory No. 3: Jon Stewart

Comedy Central's Jon Stewart of "The Daily Show"

Comedy Central's Jon Stewart of "The Daily Show" (Credit: Getty Images)

And welcome to my third and final theory in the ongoing TV Zone series, "Why is NBC messing with Jay Leno . . . again?!"  Previous theories explored obvious terrain — that Fox is causing trouble again, that David Letterman may retire, that someone else is making a pitch for Jimmy Fallon.

This third and final theory considers this possibility: Jon Stewart.

Admittedly, this theory is out there, probably out beyond Pluto. But it's a fun one and an intriguing one, and the more I think about it the more I like it: Jon Stewart could be the next host of "Late Show with David Letterman," thus putting the squeeze on NBC to make a move at "Tonight" now.

Come on, Gay (you say.) Ain't gonna happen. "Jon Stewart is happy at "Daily Show" and will be there forever. "

But wait — says I — think about what you just said. "Forever?" That's a long time. Plus that's a really boring word. If you told Stewart he was going to be the host of "The Daily Show" forever, he'd punch you in the face. Seriously, he would: He's an ambitious guy. To stay someplace "forever" suggests that he's done — cooked, over and out. An old man ready to retire. Surely Jon Stewart has greater ambitions than staying in one place forever.

Imagine his epitaph: Jon Stewart, worked at Comedy Central forever. He was happy though.

Gack. Here's the thing: I know that CBS covets him and has coveted him for a very long time. But CC has been smart: They've tied him down, given him long term deals, paid him vast sums (more than Jay, I'd bet) and made him — yes — happy. No show on TV more perfectly reflects the sensibilities and intelligence of its host than "The Daily Show," and that is quite an accomplishment indeed.

But think about it: Jon's a very smart guy with a broad base of interests. He's taking off the summer to direct a movie in Iran; he's written scripts; he has deep and wide intellectual interests. But couldn't he explore those — at least to a certain extent — at "Late Show?"

What if CBS said to Stewart — do whatever you want. You don't want to interview Selena Gomez? Fine — don't. You want to interview Steve Coll, the brilliant new head of the Columbia Journalism School? Knock yourself out. (But please — humor us. Occasionally interview a Scott Pelley or a star of "NCIS" every now and then too.)

Just get buzz and ratings and make us money.

Could or would this theory work?

 I'd say that on a scale of one to 10 — with "one" being "this is complete and utter madness, Gay - I'm done with your idiotic theories" — and "ten" being "genius! sheer geeeenious! of course this is going to happen!"  - this theory is probably close to a "3." But still . . . a three's better than a one.

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