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Perhaps hoping to avert an ugly incident in which obsolescent Tonight Show host Jay Leno makes a last-ditch effort to save his job by chaining himself to his desk while wrecking balls emblazoned with a cheerful peacock logo demolish his beloved Burbank studio, NBC Universal boss Jeff Zucker reasserted yesterday that the show will be handed over to Conan O'Brien as planned, recent intimations that Leno isn't quite ready for early retirement notwithstanding:

"Conan O'Brien will take over 'The Tonight Show' in 2009," NBC Universal President and CEO Jeff Zucker said Monday in New York at an event arranged by Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.

Zucker said he'd like Leno to remain with the company and that "we are in those conversations now."

"I'm hopeful that Jay will be with us," the executive told the question-and-answer session.

Continuing in a more somber tone, Zucker added, "Of course, sometimes these conversations don't lead anywhere, and a loved one makes the choice to leave the family. We'd really hate to see that happen. And it would be sadder still if, on the way home from the conversation in which we decided to go our separate ways, the brakes on one of those unreliable old jalopies Jay is so fond of mysteriously give out, and the car winds up in a ditch off of Mullholland Drive, tragically cutting short his search for a new family."