Craig Kilborn Signs Off
Friday August 13 1:00 PM ET
By Lia Haberman
Night owls have lost one of their own.
Late Late Show host Craig Kilborn gave notice Thursday after five successful seasons on the CBS talker.
The network had purportedly been in talks with the sardonic talk-show yakker this summer about extending his contract, but Kilborn has apparently decided to shift to a career behind the scenes.
"It was easily the greatest job I've ever had, and CBS was very generous in their offer to re-sign me," Kilborn told Variety. "But I simply want to try something new. I can now focus on writing and producing different television projects I haven't had time for.
"And this is cool: I will continue to wear makeup in my everyday life."
Sources say he's expected to take his final bow at the end of this month or early next month, sending CBS and the show's production team, David Letterman's Worldwide Pants, scrambling for a replacement.
The first name suggested to fill the empty chair by Industry watchers is Conan O'Brien, NBC's Late Night host whose deal with the Peacock expires in December 2005. While NBC hopes to keep O'Brien at its Rockefeller Plaza studio, the self-deprecating funnyguy has been open about his desire to switch to shift time slots
But it's hardly a done deal. O'Brien is likely to look for some type of guarantee that he'd be groomed to take over Letterman's spot when the Late Show host steps down, which isn't due to happen anytime soon. And since O'Brien has another year on his contract, CBS would be forced to make do with guest hosts until the redhead could come aboard.
Meanwhile, Kilborn leaves his post on a high note. The show's audience has grown 34 percent since he took over in 1999, averaging 1.7 million viewers this season. He's also regularly trounced time-slot competitor Jimmy Kimmel Live, though O'Brien remains the 12:35 a.m. leader.
No word yet on what specifically Kilborn will be doing after next month. The original host of Comedy Central's Daily Show, he got his big break in the early '90s on ESPN's Sports Center. Since then Kilborn's also dabbled in feature films with a role in last year's Old School. He'll also appear in the upcoming Wes Craven werewolf thriller Cursed.