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Comic: Jay Leno is Getting a Raw Deal

hollywoodexclusiveJay Leno has been given a raw deal, in the opinion of Leno show regular Jim Norton. And the funnyman, who is also a part of the popular radio show "Opie and Anthony," wants to make sure everyone hears about it.

"I think Jay has been vilified and he absolutely should not have been. The critics have never given him any respect, which drives me nuts," Norton blasts. "Everyone said Conan needed more time, but nobody said that about Jay. By the second episode, they were killing him and nobody was saying how Conan was struggling. They were treating Conan like they should have: 'Give him some time and see what he does.' Instead of going across the street and really beating NBC in the ratings, Leno stayed with the network and gave up a tremendous part of his format so I really thought it was an unfair vilification," claims the stand-up comedian, who thinks people had their facts wrong from the beginning.

"I get mad when people think Jay all of a sudden kicked Conan out of 'The Tonight Show.' It just doesn't work that way at a network. The myth is that Leno said in 2004 that he was retiring. They came to him and said, 'We're putting Conan in there in five years.' Jay wasn't going to sit there and say, 'I'm being screwed and they're making me leave in five years' so he told people he was retiring," says Norton. "Jay stayed on top for five more years. He was ready to move on, but they wanted to keep him because of his big numbers. There was no reason they should have asked him to step aside in the first place. No one asked Jerry Seinfeld to step aside. He stopped when he was ready," he notes. "In a year's time, Conan will be doing his thing at another network, Letterman will be Letterman and, hopefully, Jay will be back at No. 1."

AND ANOTHER NETWORK HEARD FROM: "I feel like the pretty girl who wasn't asked to the prom. I don't understand it," says "Rules of Engagement" actress Megyn Price, talking about why the CBS sitcom that's drawn good ratings for three seasons is starting its fourth season March 1 instead of in the fall — with many of its fans thinking it's been canceled.

Price says that she's been asked about the show a lot while traveling across the country, "and I just had to keep saying, 'I don't know. I don't know.' I think it was a scheduling issue for CBS. Have you read Bill Carter's book all about the networks? They're totally insane."

The series, in which she stars alongside Patrick Warburton, Oliver Hudson, Bianca Kajlich and, of course, David Spade, is, she stresses, maintaining its quality and then some. "It really is the best writing ever done on the show this season," she tells us. "It's sharper, funnier, a lot of out-of-the-box writing."

With Season 4 of "Rules" already wrapped, Price is enjoying downtime with her 2-year-old daughter and her husband, an emergency room physician. "All of our hiatuses up till this point, I've stayed with my girl. She'll be starting preschool in the fall. Everyone said, 'It goes so fast' and I didn't believe them, but now I do," she notes. "There are a couple of small movies that I'm thinking of that wouldn't require a huge time commitment, which works better for me. We've also talked about my doing guest spots on other show, but for me, it's so hard to jump into somebody else's party."

IF THE SHOE FITS: Craig Horner got a little taste of the disadvantages of feminine-style foot fashion recently, when the "Legend of the Seeker" star found himself required to do battle in clothing quite different from his usual woodsman-type gear. "My usual costume is pretty free and easy, but I had to be dressed up for this big ballroom fight in an episode recently. I had to do kicks in these boots that looked like they belonged to Kahlan," he says, referring to the leading lady role played by Bridget Regan on the internationally syndicated fantasy action series. "They were crazy ones that went past your knee. It's kind of cool to dress up, but after a whole day of fighting in these things, I said to the production company, 'Guys, I think you owe me a massage.'"

His "Seeker" character, Richard, and his love interest, Kahlan, have had to abstain from physical intimacy to avoid the magic that would make him her slave. How metaphorical! Still, the two do manage to get together, as the writers have created loopholes in their own rules. Does Horner ever find himself stunned when he reads those scripts?

"Usually, I hear about things from Bridget, who is a bit better than me when it comes to reading scripts," he cheerfully explains. "She'll say, 'Hey, guess what? We have sex in this episode.' And I'll say, OK, tell me what happens.' I get the lowdown from her."

THE BIG-SCREEN SCENE: Aziz Ansari recently joined forces with producer Judd Apatow — a decision Ansari says is one of the easiest he's ever made considering Apatow's huge success rate with making movies. "Yeah, myself and this guy Jason Woliner, we sold three movie ideas to Judd Apatow so we're working on those. It's all in the beginning stages. Movie stuff takes a long time so it will be a while before anything gets made," notes Ansari, who worked with Woliner on their breakout MTV series "Human Giant."

This won't be the first time the guys have teamed up with Apatow. "I worked with Judd on the movie 'Funny People.' Jason and I shot these documentaries about my character from the movie. It went online and on the DVD," he says. "We just had such a good time working with him that when he approached us about the movie idea, we jumped at the chance. He's also got a great track record of developing movies. He's really talented at the area of producing movies so it's kind of a no-brainer to say yes to that guy."

With reports by Emily-Fortune Feimster

To find out more about Marilyn Beck and Stacy Jenel Smith and read their past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.



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