By Tim Cuprisin Media Columnist Published Jan 15, 2010 at 11:00 AM
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This phase of the conflict over NBC's late shift appears to be coming to a conclusion.

Nothing's quite official yet,  but all signs point to a new contract for Jay Leno, who'll  return to the "Tonight Show" at 10:35 p.m. That means there's no job for Conan O'Brien, who's said to be negotiating the terms of his departure from NBC.

NBC execs are circling the wagons, and have started dumping on O'Brien -- saying he's the one who failed, rather than Leno, whose five-month prime-time flop will rank up there with the Edsel and New Coke in the pantheon of corporate blunders.

The network has released its new schedule, which will kick off in March, after the Winter Olympics, and O'Brien was making fun of it Thursday, along with just about everything else 

For at least another week, it looks like Conan will use his "Tonight Show" platform to dump all over the NBC. He's scheduled to go on a break after next Friday's show, and there's no word on whether he'll ever be back.

All the night-time comedy is angry these days, like Jimmy Kimmel's odd appearance on Leno's dying 9 p.m. show Thursday night, which came after he did his ABC show earlier this week dressed as Leno.

"Conan and I have children, all you have to take care of is cars." Kimmel told Leno in closing a long and uncomfortable bit. "For God's sake, leave our shows alone."

Here's the clip:


As Leno shifts back to the job he first got after Johnny Carson retired in 1992, there are some big questions that will keep this story bubbling along.

Can he get anywhere near the ratings he had in his previous hosting gig, or is David Letterman now dominant at 10:35 p.m.?

Is there any chance of O'Brien popping up at 10:35 somewhere else, either Fox or a cable channel?

When do NBC's execs start paying for their serial bungling?

On TV: George Clooney is heading up a TV fundraiser for Haitian relief set to air next Friday on MTV and sister channels like VH1. ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC have  signed on to carry it, and it looks like this will keep on growing. Five years ago, Clooney organized a similar effort after the massive Asian tsunami.

  • CBS has picked up "The Good Wife" and "NCIS: LA" for next season. 
  • TNT has renewed Ray Romano's "Men of a Certain Age" for a second season.
  • The Fox Business Channel version of Don Imus' morning show is growing by 20 minutes, until 8:20, when Stuart Varney will take over for the opening of the U.S. markets. "Varney & Company," as the new show is called, will run until 10 a.m.
  • Sigourney Weaver hosts this weekend's "Saturday Night Live" at 10:30 p.m. on Channel 4 -- unless NBC plans on moving it to 11:05 as well.
  • The first night of Fox's "American Idol" had 30 million viewers, and Wednesday's second night dipped to 26.4 million, according to Nielsen Media Research numbers.

This could be great TV: Sunday night's "Golden Globe Awards," airing at 7 p.m. on Channel 4, is hosted by British comedian Ricky Gervais. The Golden Globes are the most trivial of the awards, but based on Gervais' hilarious appearances on awards shows over the past couple years, this should make for an entertaining night of television.

Here's a promo for Gervais' first U.S. host gig:

Tim Cuprisin Media Columnist

Tim Cuprisin is the media columnist for He's been a journalist for 30 years, starting in 1979 as a police reporter at the old City News Bureau of Chicago, a legendary wire service that's the reputed source of the journalistic maxim "if your mother says she loves you, check it out." He spent a couple years in the mean streets of his native Chicago, and then moved on to the Green Bay Press-Gazette and USA Today, before coming to the Milwaukee Journal in 1986.

A general assignment reporter, Cuprisin traveled Eastern Europe on several projects, starting with a look at Poland after five years of martial law, and a tour of six countries in the region after the Berlin Wall opened and Communism fell. He spent six weeks traversing the lands of the former Yugoslavia in 1994, linking Milwaukee Serbs, Croats and Bosnians with their war-torn homeland.

In the fall of 1994, a lifetime of serious television viewing earned him a daily column in the Milwaukee Journal (and, later the Journal Sentinel) focusing on TV and radio. For 15 years, he has chronicled the changes rocking broadcasting, both nationally and in Milwaukee, an effort he continues at

When he's not watching TV, Cuprisin enjoys tending to his vegetable garden in the backyard of his home in Whitefish Bay, cooking and traveling.