Conan O'Brien is in talks with Fox for a talk show

The former "Tonight Show" host may be on the air again, but on a different network

Published March 18, 2010 7:26PM (EDT)

The next few months could keep Conan O'Brien very busy.

For starters, he needs to keep posting those random tweets on his recently opened Twitter account.

Then in April, he hits the road for a cross-country comedy tour that's scheduled to last two months.

And by mid-May, he just might be anointed by Fox as its late-night leading man, when the network's program lineup for next season is officially unveiled.

Rumors and reports that O'Brien was likely headed for Fox were almost instantly set swirling in January with his abrupt departure from NBC. Since his "Tonight Show" finale Jan. 22, O'Brien has been out of sight. But next season he could be back on the air with a new late-night show on Fox.

"They are definitely talking," said O'Brien representative Leslee Dart on Thursday, but added that Fox "is by no means the only place he's talking right now."

"There is nothing imminent," according to another person with knowledge of the talks, who commented on condition of anonymity because a deal has not been finalized. "I don't know if I'd say we're in negotiations. Discussions is more like it."

The logical moment to have a deal in place would be Fox's upfront presentation May 17. But that's two whole months from now and, lately, things have been moving very fast for O'Brien.

He exited NBC after just eight months as host of "The Tonight Show" when NBC proposed reinstating his predecessor, Jay Leno, to the 11:35 p.m. Eastern time slot, and pushing back O'Brien's show a half-hour.

Within three weeks, a theater tour for O'Brien was in the planning stages.

The tour was announced last week, beginning April 12 in Eugene, Ore., and concluding June 14 in Atlanta. Dubbed "The Legally Prohibited From Being Funny on Television Tour," it takes wry note of a provision of O'Brien's severance package with NBC that keeps him off the air until September.

It is unclear whether a Conan show on Fox would premiere as soon as the fall, or instead debut midway through next season. It would likely air at 11 p.m. Eastern time, which would require Fox stations to relinquish a time period they typically devote to profitable syndicated fare such as "The Simpsons."

Fox spokeswoman Gaude Paez said Thursday the network had no comment about signing O'Brien beyond the words of News Corp. Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch, who in February told reporters, "We're giving it a lot of thought and a lot of examination."

But O'Brien is also entertaining other options. These include a new home on any of several cable networks, or even a syndicated show that might bring O'Brien out of late night for the first time since he started on NBC in 1993, slotting him in "early fringe" weeknights between 4:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Eastern time.

O'Brien's camp is "at a point where they're considering everything," Dart said. "Everybody wants to get this done as soon as possible, regardless of where he ends up. But whether the reality is that he can get it done quickly, I don't know."

Meanwhile, his tweets keep coming every day or so. For example, with the recent return to daylight saving time, he posted a helpful reminder for his fans that, more to the point, seemed to mock NBC: "Remember everyone -- tonight at eleven set your clocks two hours back. Then at 2 a.m., a half hour forward. You're welcome."

By Frazier Moore

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