As part of a rumor cycle designed specifically to test whether Jay Leno still feels human emotions, The New York Post has built on recent speculation that NBC is nearing the end of its relationship with The Tonight Show host—again—by claiming Howard Stern is already being “groomed” to take over Late Night, once Jimmy Fallon moves up to the slightly bigger game. All of this is pure, unofficially sourced conjecture, of course, beginning with The Hollywood Reporter’s recent assertion that the end of Leno’s contract in 2014 could be preceded by an announcement in May that next year will be Leno’s last. This would find Fallon taking over in the fall (and, this time, not being slowly pushed back out), and leave a vacancy at Fallon’s desk, one the Post suggests could be filled by the fresh, hip voice of 59-year-old Howard Stern.
Actually, the fact that Stern is only three years younger than Leno—and thus appealing less to the Late Night demographic than its dads who are wondering when that demographic is gonna move out already—is addressed in the Post, which openly acknowledges Stern could be “too old in TV years to even appeal to himself.” Still, in typically classy Post fashion, it quotes anecdotal evidence from Stern’s “hot, younger wife” Beth Ostrosky Stern, who says “all these little kids recognize him now as the judge from America’s Got Talent”—and what better method to evaluate whether Stern could build a late-night following than listening to “screaming little kids”? It’s possible this is how NBC makes all its business decisions.
Anyway, there are obviously other, non-screamed arguments for why Stern would make an adequate Late Night replacement, including his built-in audience, a knack for revealing interviews (that would then be hampered by the time and decency demands of broadcast television), and the fact that he’s done this sort of thing before, what with his many failed pilots and the successful TV version of his radio show. But there are just as many other arguments for why he wouldn’t, including his continuing time commitments to that radio show (sewn up through 2015), and the fact that he’d undoubtedly be very, very expensive—which would make him an illogical choice, considering ditching Leno is at least partially motivated by saving money. So all in all, it’s best to just consider this part of the continued campaign to make Jay Leno walk around muttering, “Have you seen this? Have you heard about this?” to the maddening silence.