Holy Cow! Go to TVBarn , Lost Remote , and Defamer to find out more about the shock announcement by Jay Leno that he's quitting the Tonight Show on NBC after his contract expires in 2009, and he will be handing the job over to his chosen successor, Conan O'Brien.
Conan had been courted by other networks including CBS, which was looking for a host for The Late Late Show and groom a replacement for David Letterman. With this announcement CBS is, well, screwed and in need of a Plan B.
Personally I think CBS might actually be in a better position than anyone realizes, because the coast is clear for them to go after Jon Stewart, name him the successor to Letterman, and crush NBC and Conan in 2009. Problem is that Stewart is under contract to the Daily Show right now, but he's bound to be interested in Letterman's job down the road, and the pressure on Letterman to clarify his future plans will be intense.
This is actually a period of turmoil in late night with one changeover after another, starting with the end of Bill Maher, the launch of Last Call with Carson Daly to replace Later on NBC, the launch of Jimmy Kimmel Live on ABC, then the shocking sudden departure of Craig Kilborn just last month. ( Canadian fans might even throw in the ill-fated departure of Mike Bullard from CTV to Global, which allowed CTV to replace Bullard with The Daily Show and run Bullard right off the air.) O'Brien is now set to replace Leno in 2009 and now it's left to Letterman and to CBS to make their next move. Right now the first priority is just to get a host for their sad and pathetic Late Late Show Without Craig Kilborn. How else to describe that train wreck? That's priority number one for those geniuses at CBS.
Back to Leno. He made the announcement on the special 50th anniversary edition of the Tonight Show, where he showed highlights of some of the past Tonight Shows with some of the past hosts, and he mentioned some of the reasons why he's leaving now and making the announcement that O'Brien is the successor. He said the Tonight Show was Number One under his watch and wanted to go out on top. But he also noted the whole mess that went on when he got the Tonight Show job in 1992 to replace Johnny Carson, the whole feud with Letterman and so on, and how a lot of friendships were permanently damaged. So that's another reason why he's saying: "Conan, it's yours in 2009".
I'll have more on the Leno legacy later.