The late-night wars are starting once again.
The last round reinstalled Jay Leno as host of "The Tonight Show" and booted Conan O'Brien to TBS. But the cease-fire could end next year when Leno's contract is up. The word in Hollywood is that NBC plans to move Jimmy Fallon from "Late Night" to the coveted 11:35 slot. And now comes chatter that provocative radio host Howard Stern is being eyed to replace Fallon on "Late Night."
The New York Post cites sources saying that the shock jock is being "groomed" to take over the role. Stern could bring along his sizable, loyal audience, particularly young men. And while he's known for bawdy, risque commentary on his radio show, Stern has proved that he can tone it down to PG levels with his judging gig on "America's Got Talent" (also an NBC show).
NBC is looking to win over younger viewers, especially now that Jimmy Kimmel is already luring some away after his show's move to 11:35.
Stern hasn't commented on his Twitter, and his radio show is on repeats this week while he's taping "AGT." His wife, Beth Ostrosky, told the Post she hopes he gets the job. "He is one of the best interviewers out there," she said. But later, she amended her comments on "Extra," saying that while her husband was "perfect" to host "Late Night," she didn't want him away from home so much.
"I'm personally not looking for him to take on yet another job. With his 'AGT' schedule and his morning radio show, I need more Howard at home!" she said.
Even if he's as "perfect" as his wife claims, it won't be easy, as Stern noted on "Late Night" two years ago. He needled Fallon about his ratings against CBS host Craig Ferguson:
Stern tried (and failed) to get on television prior to "AGT." He shot a few pilots in an attempt to replace Joan Rivers on "The Late Show" in 1987, but he didn't get the gig. From 1990-92, he hosted "The Howard Stern" show on Saturday nights. He tried that again in 1998, but affiliates balked at his crude content.
It's possible that now, with networks toeing the decency line more and more (and the FCC lax in levying fines), late night could be ready for a slightly-toned down Stern.
Choosing Stern to be the "Late Night" host would definitely be a departure. Usually, NBC has given the job to a young, rising comedian, like O'Brien or Fallon. Stern, despite his appeal to young men, is 59 … just three years younger than Leno.
What do you think: Would Stern make a good "Late Night" host?