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Tucker tape parade

Carlson in play after political gabfest exit

NEW YORK — MSNBC is making a play for Tucker Carlson to replace Deborah Norville when she leaves her show in January, but CNN is also weighing a primetime show for the “Crossfire” co-host.

Carlson is signed on with CNN until the end of December, though he will leave the political talker even if he stays with the network.

Sources close to the matter said Carlson is the only serious candidate to replace Norville and that a contract could be finalized in the first week in January.”We think Tucker Carlson is a great journalist,” an MSNBC spokesman said. “We are just beginning the development process for a new 9 p.m. show, and we’re assessing a variety of options.”

But new CNN prexy Jonathan Klein is weighing a counteroffer for Carlson, who is weary of the “Crossfire” format and eager to do more general-interest programming.

Klein, a former CBS executive who replaced Princell Hair as president of the CNN News Group last month, is considering how the channel could use Carlson in primetime and justify making an offer sweet enough to retain him.

Unlike MSNBC, which airs “Scarborough Country” and “Hardball With Chris Matthews,” CNN doesn’t typically air political programming in primetime.

But when he was appointed to the job in November, Klein targeted CNN’s primetime as most in need of fixing and said the network needed to do a better job of developing distinctive personalities.

Klein is discussing a number of ideas for new shows featuring the CNN political analyst.

Carlson and execs at both CNN and MSNBC declined to comment.

If Carlson jumps to MSNBC, he will be reunited with prexy Rick Kaplan, who signed Carlson and helped develop his career at CNN before moving to MSNBC.

In addition to CNN, Carlson is under contract through June with PBS for weekly half-hour “Tucker Carlson: Unfiltered,” which has addressed topics including the death penalty and the war in Iraq.

A spokesman for PBS said “Unfiltered” is funded through June and the pubcaster would apply for funds to extend the show this spring.

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