Leno says NBC wanted limited 'Tonight' run

Sept. 12, 2009 at 1:49 PM

BURBANK, Calif., Sept. 12 (UPI) -- U.S. comedian Jay Leno says NBC executives originally planned for him to serve as host of "The Tonight Show" for a shorter time.

Leno, who will premiere his new prime time TV series on NBC next week, said he was informed by NBC officials five years ago that they wanted to replace him with comedian Conan O'Brien within three years, The New York Times reported Saturday.

"Actually, they wanted me out in three years," said Leno, who departed the "Tonight Show" in May. "I had to argue to get the other two. Oh, yeah. I said: 'Let's make it five. You want me out? I'll do five.'"

Leno's recollection of those past events has been questioned by Rick Ludwin, NBC's executive in charge of late-night programs.

"That is definitely not my recollection," Ludwin said. "I don't remember three years being mentioned."

Now both sides are betting on the success of "The Jay Leno Show" with NBC heavily promoting the new prime time series due to premiere Monday.

"It's just so embarrassing," Leno told the Times of his response to the wealth of "Leno" promotions. "It's a genetic fault that makes you go into show business. It's not a plus."

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