Jay Leno returns to 'The Tonight Show' March 1

jay-leno-320.jpgMeet the new host, same as the old host: On the heels of NBC's official announcement that Conan O'Brien is leaving "The Tonight Show" came another press release that Jay Leno would return to late-night.

Leno will go back to "The Tonight Show" starting March 1, following the Winter Olympics. NBC hasn't said yet what will fill the weeks in between Friday and the start of the Olympics on Feb. 12 -- reruns from O'Brien's tenure seem the most likely candidates. (The show was always scheduled to be off the air during the Olympics, with more coverage from Vancouver taking its place.)

Also, NBC has pulled "The Jay Leno Show" from its 10 p.m. spot on Friday (Jan. 22) in favor of "Dateline." The network, along with dozens of others, is airing the "Hope for Haiti Now" telethon from 8 to 10 ET and maybe didn't want to follow that up with a comedy show, but it also gives O'Brien the talk-show stage to himself for the night.

In contrast to NBC's terse statement regarding the end of O'Brien's tenure, the network was fairly sunny in announcing Leno's return to "The Tonight Show." "We're pleased that Jay is returning to host the franchise that he helmed brilliantly and successfully for many years," NBC chairman Jeff Gaspin says in the release. "He is an enormous talent, a consummate professional and one of the hardest-working performers on television."

Leno's prime-time show will continue through Feb. 11. He'll then go dark for the Olympics -- save for an all-but-certain blizzard of promos during the Games -- before resuming his place at 11:35 p.m.

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Photo credit: NBC