NBC brass are not just buying Jay Leno a watch, sending him off to retirement. “We have been having conversations, talking about various ideas” for Leno to stay on NBC after he ends his run on The Tonight Show in February,” NBC topper Bob Greenblatt said today. “Nothing would make us happier for Jay ala Bob Hope to have presence at the network, we’re really hoping to do that post February.” Greenblatt disclosed that the discussions about the late-night transition had started when he joined NBC at the beginning of 2011 and the timing after the 2014 Winter Olympics was decided “to give Jimmy Fallon the best chance of succeeding. We really believe in Jimmy Fallon.” As for Leno’s continuous late-night ratings dominance, Greenblatt dismissed any second thoughts about making the change at the helm of The Tonight Show. “We predicted that we would see a boost when we announced this would be Jay’s final year,” Greenblatt said, adding, “The same happened with Johnny Carson and Jay’s previous final year” to laughs from the audience.
As for NBC’s other late-night show in transition, Saturday Night Live, which is undergoing a major cast overhaul, Greenblatt said he was not worried. Jason Sudeikis, Fred Armisen and Bill Hader have departed, to be joined by Seth Meyers who will segue to Late Night in midseason. The show’s female star Kristen Wiig left last year.”Would I have preferred to keep them longer? Of course,” Greenblatt said but he noted that most of the departing cast members had been on the show for about a decade and had career and family reasons to move on. “SNL goes through those upheavals every year, and larger ones every few years. There is no one better than Lorne Michaels in combing the country finding the next great comedy stars. We’re confident he is going to do this again.”