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Letterman's Replacement?

The biggest entertainment news story of the week was David Letterman's announced retirement which will occur some time in 2015. And nearly everyone wanted to speculate about who would inherit the CBS 11:37pm spot once Dave departs.

There is a laundry list of regulars that might be up for the job. There are some prerequisites that should be met. Certainly having an audience would help. So, if you're already popular, maybe that would be a good thing. Could Brad Pitt host? Well, there is a laundry list of skills in talk show hosting. Those include improv, stand-up comedy, funny monologues, crazy characters, sketches, slapstick, anecdotes, parody. -- List stolen blatantly from Liam Neeson's brilliantly hilarious performance on "Life's Too Short"

So we can narrow the field down to someone with a comedy pedigree.

It helps to know the mechanics of things. And no, that's not a Jay Leno pun. Viacom is the parent company of both CBS and Comedy Central. It's sort of how Letterman picked Craig Kilborn to host "The Late Late Show" back in 1999. He just went and took. So, the likely front runner to move to Letterman's slot is Jon Stewart.

Stewart has been doing better than great on basic cable with his iteration of "The Daily Show," and even though that program has a news/current events/political bent, the host himself could easily slide into something less topical, if that was what was required for the new job. He's hosted the Oscars twice! Surely that means he could be in the running.

Speaking of Academy Award hosts, another possibility is just bringing Ellen DeGeneres to late night. Her show already IS a late night talk show, that just happens to be on in the daytime. And with so few women in the history of this time slot, it could be a thing to do.

The problem with a lot of the likely candidates is that they're not that much younger than Letterman himself! Dave turns 67 a week from today, and a lot of these folks are already in their fifties! Meanwhile, Jimmy Fallon, the host that whomever gets Dave's time slot will face off against, is still at the Jack Benny joke age of 39.

Our new host won't be anyone who has had any (recent) association with Saturday Night Live. So Tina Fey? Amy Poehler? Kristen Wiig? No. Besides, there's probably some "No Compete" clause that Lorne Michaels has on all of his SNL players forbidding them from taking on Fallon, head-to-head.

Stephen Colbert is a possibility, however, as he has been portraying this character named "Stephen Colbert" on his "Colbert Report," it's hard to know if that sort of "meta" approach would play on a major network.

Believe it or not, Jimmy Kimmel (admittedly Letterman's biggest fan) has asked to take over... this, though Kimmel already has an 11:30 show on ABC! I wonder what those Alphabet Suits are thinking about that? There's also Kimmel's ex, Sarah Silverman, and there's Chelsea Handler as possibilities. Wanda Sykes would be an extremely edgy choice, even though she has hosted her own late night talk/sketch comedy show on Fox. Admittedly, she's getting a bit long in the tooth.

Personally, I think Whitney Cummings would be a genius choice! (Her "Two Broke Girls" is a huge hit on CBS, so maybe she has an in?) But even though she had a prime time network sitcom with her name as the title (NBC's "Whitney") I'm still not sure people know who she is.

Jerry Seinfeld? (turns 60 at the end of the month.) Chris Rock? (at least he's only 49.) Howard Stern? (just had his big 6-0 celebration.)

There is obviously Craig Ferguson, who is already on CBS following Letterman. He's going to be 52 next month.

Don't get me wrong! I'm not age obsessed. And personally, I think any of these people could potentially take the job and do fine. But I do think the network is maybe more age focused. And if you're looking for someone who is going to host a program for 20 years or so (and that's basically what you're looking for when you want a host of this sort), it's probably not going to be someone who will be pushing 80 when they're done! I mean, if whoever takes over retires at the age Letterman is now, some of them would only be around for about 10 or 15 years.

Of course, that just leads me to wonder, will television networks still be around in 10 or 15 years? And if they are, will they matter? Will New York or Los Angeles still be around in 10 or 15 years? And if they are, will they matter?

Before I start thinking too much about THAT, let me give my assessment of the most likely cases.

Scenario 1. CBS moves Jon Stewart to the slot. The show would work because it could continue to be the established "Daily Show" format without any changes (well maybe moving any guests to the second half-hour) and then doing more of a standard talk show once that first half hour is done. Another thing to keep in mind is that if this show starts in the Autumn of 2015, we'll be having the run-up to the Presidential Election of 2016... The timing would be amazing.

Scenario 2. Craig Ferguson moves up. This really doesn't solve anything, as CBS would then need to find a replacement for Ferguson at 12:30. What happened to that Kilborn guy? And would CBS keep Ferguson in LA or move him to NYC? My feeling is he would stay where he is, @ Television City. Maybe Whitney Cummings could fit into this scenario as Craig's replacement?

Scenario 3. Conan O'Brien sneaks back to a network, as Letterman's final "thumb your nose at NBC" move.

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