Conan the replaceable?

O'Brien slot up for grabs

Even as it deals with its Jay Leno headache, NBC has another dilemma to solve: replacing Conan O’Brien at 12:35.

Carson Daly, who hosts the Peacock’s late-latenight skein “Last Call,” has made it clear he wants the gig. At a recent NBC party, Daly even made sure to get some face time with new honcho Ben Silverman, suggesting the two men avoid a long wait for the elevator by taking the stairs (Silverman passed).

MTV’s former golden boy is certainly in the mix of candidates for the job. But many people outside NBC think the net could do better. Here’s an early scouting report:

  • Jimmy Fallon or another “SNL” alum. The New York Times last winter said Fallon had inked a holding deal with the Peacock to develop a latenight skein, though Silverman recently seemed unaware of any such pact. Former “Weekend Update” anchor has the comedy chops and plenty of live comedy experience. And assuming Lorne Michaels continues to control the 12:35 a.m. slot, there’d be a comfort level with Fallon.

Michaels’ involvement in the replacement search makes other current and former “SNL” cast members contenders for the gig.

  • A graduate of the “Daily Show” academy. NBC supremo Jeff Zucker met with Jon Stewart earlier this year, but most industry insiders believe Stewart would have no interest in following O’Brien. Stephen Colbert might be more receptive, however, as would some other alums of Comedy Central’s signature skein.

  • Jimmy Kimmel. A longshot, since he’s pretty well established at ABC. But if the Alphabet decided to make a major play for Leno, a miffed Kimmel might decide to jump. (A recent contract extension might make Kimmel unavailable in 2009, however.)

  • Dane Cook. He remains huge in the standup world, but Cook’s film career has been less impressive. His acerbic style could turn off many older viewers, but the 12:35 slot has always been about attracting younger eyeballs.

  • A complete unknown. O’Brien was an on-air neophyte when he took over from David Letterman. NBC might want to take another gamble on a newbie — an unknown scribe/comic, or possibly a personality from the Internet. A woman or a non-Caucasian would be a refreshing change.
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