David Letterman's announcement that he's stepping down as late-night television's longest-tenured host could bring back bad memories for NBC — including potentially setting off Conan vs. Jay Part II, according to TheWrap.com.
"NBC's handling of the last two 'Tonight Show' transitions could come back to bite it — hard," the website reports. "David Letterman is retiring at a time when both Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien will be available to replace him. That's potentially very bad news for NBC, which let both former 'Tonight Show' hosts go. And it raises the messy possibility of Leno and O'Brien yet again fighting it out for a late-night show — except this time on CBS."
O'Brien has a five-year deal with TBS, where he landed with "Conan" after being booted from NBC's "Tonight Show" following the Leno in prime time disaster. O'Brien is currently in the fourth year of that deal, meaning the timing is right for a move at about the time Letterman will be headed out the door.
Meanwhile, Leno could also be a contender for the CBS gig. "NBC Entertainment Chairman Bob Greenblatt has said he wants to stay in business with Leno, but his replacement by Jimmy Fallon would seem to leave him free to go elsewhere," the story notes. "Leno would seem an especially bright prospect for CBS because he retired from 'Tonight' on top. And CBS, with the oldest viewers in broadcast TV, may not be as fixated on youth as NBC was when it replaced Leno with Fallon."
Other candidates for the "Late Show" job include Craig Ferguson, who has been in the lead-out spot after Letterman for a few years, and Chelsea Handler, who reportedly intends to leave E! when her deal runs out.
Handler "could be the first woman since Joan Rivers to host a late-night show on a broadcast network. And she, too, would be a part of the NBC family gone away: NBCUniversal owns E!," the report notes.
Meanwhile, a #DraftEllen movement appears to be forming to bring Ellen DeGeneres out of daytime and into the "Late Show" chair.
"CBS might also try to lure one of Comedy Central's hosts," TheWrap adds. "Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert both perform well at 11 and 11:30 p.m., respectively. And Chris Hardwick is rising fast with his show, '@Midnight.'”
Potential replacements for Letterman also include Jerry Seinfeld and Chris Rock, the article reports, noting that the two comedians — both veterans of NBC — were part of a scenario that played out a while back on "Louie."
"Two years ago, FX's 'Louie' devoted a three-part episode to imagining what would happen if Letterman ever decided to retire. Louis CK, Chris Rock and Jerry Seinfeld competed for the gig in a bizarre contest that came complete with David Lynch cameos," the story reports.
The piece adds that on the sitcom, "CK discovered that the three-way bakeoff between him, Rock and Seinfeld was just a way for CBS to negotiate a better deal with Letterman. In real life, Letterman's retirement will likely be good news for any potential replacements."
The piece hints that both O'Brien and Leno could leverage Letterman's impending retirement to lock in favorable deals with TBS and NBC, respectively.