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Why is NBC messing with Leno? Theory 5: Lorne Michaels

"Saturday Night Live" creator and producer Lorne Michaels,

"Saturday Night Live" creator and producer Lorne Michaels, pictured at a Los Angeles Lakers game with actor Jack Nicholson, donated to John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign, Politico reported. (Jan. 25, 2012) (Credit: AP)

We now come to Theory No. 5 in our ongoing series, "Why is NBC messing with Jay Leno?" Two names comprise this theory: "Lorne" and "Michaels."

Along with Leslie Moonves and Brandon Tartikoff, Lorne  Michaels is the single-most influential TV executive of the last 30 years - arguably the most. When Michaels speaks, people listen and so they should. But what kind of skin does Michaels have in this game and who is listening?

Theory No. 5 posits that NBC's west coast entertainment division has nothing to do with this fracas - that all things considered, there are just too many prime-time problems to worry about and why add another heapin' helping of fiasco to the plate? Let Jay be. Worry about Tuesdays at 10, etc. 

This then would mean that the genesis of the Fallon-for-Leno rumors would have originated in New York, where of course the real king of late night resides. Steve Burke, chief of NBCUniversal, very conceivably speaks to Lorne often - after all, if you have one of the world's greatest resources in the building, why ignore him? Michaels sees where things are going and always does - that Leno's numbers are softening and that "Tonight" will need a successor one of these days and well, how about Jimmy? He was - by all reports - barely involved in Conan's move to "Tonight," and in fact their relations turned arctic after Conan declined to heed his advice about various matters.

But Jimmy Fallon is certainly not Conan and certainly has listened to Michaels every step of the way. By having the show remove back to New York, from whence it came, all of Michaels' late night power base will be concentrated in one building - 30 Rock: "Saturday Night Live," "Late Night," and "Tonight." NBC may own "Tonight" outright, but ownership is irrelevant - the host of this franchise is. This would give Michaels' Broadway Video even greater leverage is supplying programs to the networks, NBC included. Plus, he can continue to feed talent to various shows (the Seth Meyers to "Late Night" rumor has cropped up as it always does.

This theory has logistic support, too. How wonderful and potent a combination to have three late night franchises in the same building - leverage to get the biggest names in show biz as guests? Leverage to make 30 Rock the center of the entertainment universe once again? Leverage to revitalize all of NBC once of these days -- or nights? This theory has legs, too.  


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