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    Is NBC Close to Sealing a New Deal With Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien?

    If nothing else, this story is great fodder for the late-night monologues.

    Even as NBC was assuring Jay Leno that his current job was safe and sound (at least for now), speculation began to run wild about the fate of Conan O'Brien and the Tonight Show.

    According to numerous reports, NBC is desperately trying to move Leno's show out of prime time and into O'Brien's time slot—without causing the current Tonight Show host to bolt to a different network.

    And where do things stand?

    The New York Times is reporting that a deal is essentially in place that would move Leno back to his old stomping grounds at 11:35 p.m. for a half-hour show. Doing this would push O'Brien's Tonight Show to a 12:05 a.m. start time, leaving Late Night With Jimmy Fallon to be, well, even later.

    Contractual obligations must be met in the case of the stars, and while NBC appears to be doing its darnedest to keep Leno happy, the net has only released this statement regarding the status of O'Brien.

    "We have the best comedy team in the business. We remain committed to keeping Conan O'Brien on NBC. He is a valued part of our late-night lineup, as he has been for more than 16 years, and is one of the most respected entertainers on television."

    Conan has yet to address the late-night schedule in his own words, but there has been talk of a possible network change if the funnyman is unhappy with the deal offered. Speculation has pointed toward Fox, a network currently devoid of late-night programming (and a place where O'Brien once worked as a writer for The Simpsons).

    For all the hubbub, Leno remained in good spirits, taking to the Jay Leno Show stage Thursday night to deliver some zingers at the Peacock network.

    "NBC only cancels you when you're in first place, so we're fine," Leno teased. "What does NBC stand for? 'Never Believe your Contract.' "

    Wonder if Conan was laughing at that one?

    ________

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