Watch a guy on late-night TV long enough and you begin to think you know everything about him — including his next move. But not Jay Leno: What’s next after a 22-year run at “Tonight” ends in a few hours? Your guess is as good as anyone’s, maybe even Jay’s.
But based on years of Leno-watching and educated TV guesswork, some options:
That part of the TV business that is highly profitable, hard-sell and a little bit low-rent. And, sure, syndicators have approached Leno about a late-night show on hundreds of TV stations around the country.
Good or bad move? Bad. Leno then goes from master of the “Tonight” universe to this? Unemployment would be better — and he doesn’t need the money.
There was once keen interest, long before Jimmy Kimmel came on the scene. What about a post-”Nightline” show?
Good or bad move? Not as idiotic as it sounds because ABC — or rather corporate overseer Disney — might envision Leno as a daytime, not late-night, fixture. Jay might not envision this.
The old “I’ll Stick Around Until They Fire Jimmy” move, eh? Let’s not be cynical. That is not going to happen. But there is another option — hosting the occasional prime-time special, or more than occasional.
Good or bad move? Not exactly terrible. Leno’s been good for NBC, and vice versa. Mutual loyalty, particularly when it has yielded vast wealth for both parties, has its benefits. The real problem, however, is with Jimmy Fallon: Having one’s predecessor — an unwilling one, in fact — continue to hover around is unsettling for the new host. A clean break is best for all.
David Letterman will leave someday, and CBS will need a successor, even if it does have an able one already in-house (Craig Ferguson).