Entertainment

Leno says he'd return to 'Tonight' if NBC asked

Monday, November 02, 2009
Jay Leno speaks during the panel for The Jay Leno Show at the NBC Universal Television Critics Association summer press tour in Pasadena, Calif. on Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2009. (AP Photo/Matt Sayles)
(AP)

Jay Leno speaks during the panel for "The Jay Leno Show" at the NBC Universal Television Critics Association summer press tour in Pasadena, Calif. on Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2009. (AP Photo/Matt Sayles) (AP) (AP Photo)

Jay Leno is perched in prime time, but he still says he would have rather stayed put at "The Tonight Show" - and if NBC offered him that job again, he'd take it.

In an interview with Broadcasting & Cable magazine published online Monday, Leno hastily added that such a decision isn't his to make.

Conan O'Brien, his replacement as "Tonight" host after 17 years, is "doing fine," Leno said.

"Conan is in the same position I was in when I took over. It takes a while. Some will like it; some will leave forever and not come back."

Leno said he doesn't think the recent controversy surrounding his former late-night rival David Letterman "will have a big effect at all."

Referring to Letterman's acknowledged sexual affairs with female members of his staff, Leno said, "If it were me, it would kill me. I'm the guy who's been married 29 years. But Dave has never pretended to be Mr. Moral America, he's never set himself up that way. He's not a hypocrite."

"The Jay Leno Show" began on NBC in September, airing Monday through Friday at 10 p.m. Eastern, where it has displaced several prime-time scripted dramas. For that, and for his less-than-stellar ratings thus far, Leno has taken heat within the TV industry as well as from critics.

It's just part of the battle, said Leno, who insisted he enjoys it.

"I get a certain amount of satisfaction from pounding my head against the wall," he said. "I'm not having a bad time at 10 o'clock now. I look at this as a job, and now I'm faced with a challenge, and it's a challenge I find difficult but interesting."

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