Over the past two days, there have been two major television interviews with Jay Leno -- first, Sunday night on "60 Minutes," and again Monday morning on the "Today" show. In both instances, he more or less rules out a return to late night. But what about other times of the day? That subject --- if not exactly that question -- came up in his exit interview with the Hollywood Reporter, posted Monday morning.
It's a good and far-ranging interview, and once again, Jay expresses a sense that the transition is fine with him, and adds a little supporting evidence by saying that in fact he was supposed to stay until September (that's known) but that NBC wanted him to move aside six months earlier to give Jimmy Fallon a big prelaunch platform with the Olympics -- but that NBC assured him his staff would be paid through September. He indicates that this goodwill gesture was certainly appreciated.
But what about that "what's next" question? He tells THR there have been lots of offers but when he's asked about his relationship with CNN chief Jeff Zucker, he certainly doesn't pointedly rule out a move to the cable network -- a 10 p.m. show has been rumored, in part because there's a widespread industry expectation that Piers Morgan's contract will not be renewed, and that he'll be moved aside by midyear. Here's Jay (Lacey Rose, THR's smart reporter on the TV beat handles this adroitly):
There's been talk about Jeff Zucker expressing interest in you for CNN. A lot of people are interested .?.?. But you and Zucker have a rich history, including the chapter when he dumped you for Conan. There's no grudge? No, because Jeff believed in "The Tonight Show." When we did "The Tonight Show" [during his tenure atop NBC], if there was a big star in New York and we wanted them tomorrow night, Jeff would say, "Authorize the jet. Find $25,000. We want them." Boom. Those kinds of things don't necessarily happen anymore.
What happens now? It's just different. Jeff comes from a talk show background. He did the "Today" show, so he understands what's necessary for a daily show. You do whatever you have to do to get guests, no matter what it costs. You worry about it later. He was always very helpful that way. The fact that other things didn't work out? OK, I get it.