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Kevin Eubanks out of 'The Tonight Show'; more changes coming?

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NBC confirmed online reports today that Kevin Eubanks, Jay Leno’s affable bandleader, will step down from his post sometime after original installments of The Tonight Show resume in March. Eubanks told the peacock he wants to try other things, a network insider said, though it’s still not clear when he’ll abdicate his late night gig (or whether the entire band will go with him).  For now, he is expected to be present for Leno’s much-talked about return to Tonight on March 1.

Eubanks’ potential replacement and the band’s status is one of many logistical issues confronting Leno, as he and executive producer Debbie Vickers prepare for their next chapter in late night. One thing’s for certain: he and his staff won’t return to The Tonight Show’s old sound stage on the Burbank lot, much less take over the fancy new digs that were built for Conan O’Brien in Universal City. Instead, Leno will tape Tonight from the set of his short-lived primetime show, also in Burbank, though the look of the place is sure to change. NBC has yet to decide, in the meantime, what do with O’Brien’s old sound stage – though it could accommodate, say, a multi-camera sitcom (NBC’s developing five, in fact, for the 2010-11 season).

Once back on Tonight, Leno will likely stick with the brief opening segment where he high-fives members of the audience, not to mention running gags like headlines. NBC is not ready to announce his first guest (Jerry Seinfeld occupied the chair when Leno premiered in primetime just four months ago).

Promos for Leno’s return are expected to start airing this week during the Winter Olympics — though the comedian got a nice boost last month by participating in a promo for CBS’ The Late Show with David Letterman and Oprah Winfrey that aired during the Super Bowl. The low-cost spot ended up upstaging most of the other commercials that cost millions to produce and air.

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