Jay Leno is not the man to blame for NBC's late-night debacle, his longtime staffers say.
"The network asked him to make a compromise," producer Jack Coen, who has worked with Leno for 14 years, told The Associated Press. "He's being a good soldier, and he's being trashed."
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Leno's nice guy persona has been tarnished the past week as speculation suggested the host, whose fledgling 10 p.m. talk show has been canceled, pushed to regain the 11:35 time slot and The Tonight Show reins from Conan O'Brien. Many celebrities and fans have sided with O'Brien, including an overwhelming 83 percent of TVGuide.com voters.
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Tracie Fiss, a co-producer who has worked with Leno for 18 years, says she is frustrated by the talk because "Jay doesn't have the power to make these decisions. The decisions are made by NBC."
An exit deal for O'Brien that would restore Leno as Tonight Show host is expected soon.