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Leno to ABC? Reporter Jimmy Kimmel investigates



Kimmel BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- The moment Jay Leno joked on NBC's Tonight Show about defecting to rival ABC, executives at the alphabet network knew TV critics would pounce on the concept.

So, when entertainment president Stephen McPherson faced reporters here at the TCA press tour today, he had a special inquisitor bring up the question: ABC late night host Jimmy Kimmel.

Introducing himself as a reporter from the Sarasota Herald Banner Tribune, Kimmel let a little air out of the Leno speculation by asking questions like "Would (hiring Leno mean) Ted Koppel get(s) fired?" and "Are you at all worried that if you were to replace Jimmy Kimmel, he might do something to you or your car?"

"I'm close to Jimmy and I was talking to him yesterday about some other things, and I said 'I'm going to get questioned about this thing, just want you to know'" McPherson said. "You know, we've been transparent with everything with Jimmy and telling him what's going on. So I said, why don't you come over and you ask the question yourself?"

The speculation about Leno has grown in recent months, as the date nears for a 2009 transition which will see Conan O'Brien taking over the Tonight Show from Leno and former Saturday Night Live performer Jimmy Fallon taking over the 12:30 p.m. Late Night show. On Monday night, Leno held up a mistaken magazine headline which read "Host of the Tonight Show on ABC," saying "it's like a headline from the future."Jayleno

As early as last year's press tour, NBC officials seemed nervous about what exactly Leno might do at NBC once he leaves the Tonight Show, stressing that they valued him as a performer, even as they were orchestrating his departure from TV's top-rated late-night show. For ABC, the opportunity comes as Kimmel's show is building ratings and buzz -- on the strength of spoof videos starring Ben Affleck and Matt Damon -- leaving open the question of how Kimmel, Leno and Nightline might co-exist in the same late night lineup.

After the press session, McPherson shrugged off any serious talk of bringing Leno to the network, saying "the Leno talk is not something that's going to go on behind closed doors and suddenly be sprung on people...(but) I just still can't believe NBC is really going to let him go -- it just wouldn't make any business sense."

Wonder who NBC is going to get to ask the question when they get here on Sunday?      

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 2:49pm]


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