Last week, ABC late night host Jimmy Kimmel posed as a reporter at a news conference stunt to show he wasn't estranged from his network as rumors swirled that Jay Leno might land at ABC.
So when a bearded, bald guy took the microphone during a news conference with NBC executives here at the TV Critics Association's summer press tour, it didn't take many questions before real reporters figured out what was going on.
"Do you think what Jimmy Kimmel did . . . was kind of cheesy, coming (here) in disguise?" asked Leno. "I know Leno got an Emmy nomination for his Web site garage but not for the Tonight Show, do you think people liked him better as a mechanic than as a talk show host? . . . (And) is it true you offered him a fifth hour of Today?"
The prank didn't shake the perception that NBC has a late night problem. NBC announced Monday that Leno's last show is Friday, May 29, 2009, and Conan O'Brien will take over the following Monday.
"We have a great relationship with Jay Leno," said Ben Silverman, NBC entertainment chief, noting that the network has been criticized for losing David Letterman, Bryant Gumbel, Katie Couric and Tom Brokaw, only to see each of their replacements excel.
The question left is, where does Leno land? Particularly since Leno's ratings have risen recently as O'Brien's ratings have fallen. And what Leno seems to want to do is keep hosting the Tonight Show.