Will Johnny Carson finally abdicate his “Tonight” Show throne? The Buzz at NBC is that the net will quietly try to coax out Carson, currently in his 29th year, after he completes his 30th. Buzz hears Jay Leno’s getting to be an antsy bridesmaid and is tired of turning down offers for his own show. Leno has proved he can handle the helm: When he guest-hosted the week of Dec. 17, he drew a 5.6 Nielsen rating, edging out Johnny’s previous week’s 5.4 rating (during which Leno took his usual Tuesday turn). Asking NBC for comment about Johnny’s exit plans is like asking the Vatican for personal info on the pope. Not surprisingly, there was no comment.


Hollywood tv production execs are fuming about Jeff Katzenberg’s recent cost-cutting memo. Disney, they charge, is the major reason that tv shows are so expensive. “The costs of sitcoms have escalated out of sight, and Disney’s signing of Matt Williams and Marlens & Black is one of the big reasons,” said Fred Silverman, who produces several primetime series, such as “Matlock” with Viacom and “In The Heat Of The Night” with MGM/UA. Disney’s Touchstone TV division outbid all other majors last year on a staggering $15 million three-year deal with Neal Marlens and Carol Black (“The Wonder Years”). The previous year, Williams (“Roseanne,” “Cosby”) got $10 million for five years at Disney. Another Katzenberg critic is Gary Randall, head of production for Orion TV Entertainment. ‘When a studio pays these kind of sums, it has to hit a homerun” in the rerun syndication grosses. “But homeruns are not being hit these days because there’s such a glut of sitcoms in syndication.”


If water in California flowed like memos at Disney, there wouldn’t be a drought. In the latest, Disney Consumer Products prez Bo Boyd told the staff that first-quarter operating profits for the division are 5% shy of expectations. That means the division was $4.5 million short of the projected $89.2 million, he wrote, which would leave Consumer Products $15 million to $20 million short if the trend continues for a full year. Unlike the Katzenberg manifesto, this memo wasn’t written for newspaper coverage, and the language is blunt – managers have been told to ease up on “headcount additions.” Disney still maintains its “Dick Tracy” merchandising blitz was a success last year, and not a catalyst for current woes.


David Gershenson, who worked with Burt Reynolds for 25 years – the last six as manager – is headed for a legal beef, Buzz hears. He said he was abruptly given a 30-day notice last November by Reynolds, whose career is back on the upswing with “Evening Shade.” “I certainly have an attorney talking, but it may still be settled amicably,” said Gershenson.


Forbes should have known better than to put a cover line on its Feb. 4 issue “Performance Ratings On 666 Mutual Funds.” The issue seems to be cursed. Cover subject Colman Mockler died of a heart attack the day the issue appeared. Now comes word that Forbes screwed up royally when its “Informer” column sounded taps for Time Warner’s Entertainment Weekly. The Forbes article called it “another expensive magazine flop,” based on a report that TW had withdrawn its application for audit by the Audit Bureau of Circulations, which verifies circ figures for advertisers. Unfortunately, the magazine that pulled its ABC statement is Entertainment. Fleming Meeks, who reported the story, said he and a fact checker confirmed the information with the ABC, but because of deadlines, didn’t have time to check with TW.


Vanilla Ice rapped a little too loud about his next album, which he planned to call “Ice Capades.” Unfortunately, legal reps of the real Ice Capades heard about it, and immediately told his record label, SBK, that he was skating on thin ice. Buzz hears the proposed title has been iced, and he’ll come up with another name. He won’t be going back to the studio for awhile – his next disk will be a live version of his act, due out in April.


After playing demented twins in “Dead Ringers,” Jeremy Irons seems capable of anything. But not mambo. Buzz hears that Irons wanted the lead of “Mambo Kings Play Songs Of Love,” the pic in which art gallery owner/producer Arnold Glimcher (“Gorillas In The Mist”) makes his directorial debut. Irons was nixed and the role is going to Armand Assante, whose career is back on the map after “Q&A.” Pic starts shooting in March.


David Gerber, chairman/CEO of MGM’s tv production group, says he’s going to lose some of his best talent to majors who can offer guaranteed film deals. “In Living Color” architect Keenan Ivory Wayans, who did “I’m Gonna Git You Sucka” for MGM, is ankling the studio for Fox, said Gerber.


Michael Caton Jones, who’s doing the Michael J. Fox-starrer “Doc Hollywood” at Warner Bros., is close to signing to direct the long-delayed film version of “What Makes Sammy Run,” sources say… Don Johnson plans to direct a pic starring his wife, Melanie Griffith, Buzz hears… John Milius is writing the script for Alberto Grimaldi’s “Seige Of Leningrad.” . . . Harmonic convergence of indies is coming. Michael Almereyda, who wrote/directed the cult hit “Twister,” is teaming up with Alan Moyle, who wrote/directed another indie hit, “Pump Up The Volume,” and Michael Rooker, who starred in another cult fave “Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer.” They’ll do “Heart Like A Dog,” to be written and directed by Almereyda, exec produced by Moyle, and starring Rooker. It’s about a woman from the Lower East Side who thinks she’s a saint.