NBC Thursday debunked a prominent Web report that Jay Leno was to return as host of "The Tonight Show," but it may be what could be called a moot debunk. Unless Conan O'Brien agrees to a 12:05 "Tonight Show" - at this moment about as likely as the moon turning into Limburger cheese - then your new host of "The Tonight Show" is soon to be the old host of "The Tonight Show."

TMZ reported Thursday a deal to replace O'Brien with Leno had been reached. NBC quickly dashed that, however - and in fact, TMZ never did exactly explain how Leno was to replace O'Brien while the latter was still under contract. Earlier, People magazine noted O'Brien's last week would be next week, but also failed to note that a long-scheduled show hiatus was set for Jan. 25.

>> PHOTOS: Jay Leno through the years

Why all the confusion? Simple answer: Lawyers are talking and networks are leaking and bloggers are blogging. The assumption - a very good one - is that O'Brien will leave. The only hang-up: How long NBC forces him to sit on the sidelines after he leaves before he can join another network, most likely Fox, as a host.

The stakes are considerable. NBC's reputation as an adroit handler of talent negotiations has already been nuked, so the public relations battle is over. But the more important battle is Fox: If it can get Conan as late-night host by 2011, then it has a formidable promotion machine to help launch another vital acquisition, "The X Factor." Moreover, Conan at 11 would go directly at NBC's late local news and Leno's "Tonight." He would hardly overwhelm them - but he wouldn't help, either.

Separately, the network announced its new 10 p.m. lineup after the Winter Olympics end in late February.

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On Mondays, starting March 1, "Law & Order" will air; the new series based on the movie, "Parenthood" launches March 2; "Law & Order: SVU" will air Wednesdays; Jerry Seinfeld's new reality show, "The Marriage Ref" (he's executive producer and will not appear on air), will air on Thursdays; "Dateline" is the new / old Friday 10 p.m. entry.

>> PHOTOS: Jay Leno through the years