CBS' ''Early Show'' cuts stalwart Jane Clayson adrift. The morning show will be without a permanent host once Clayson, who held down the fort for four months after Bryant Gumbel quit, gets reassigned

It’s back to square one for CBS’ ”Early Show.” Having lost the resigning Bryant Gumbel in May, the show had been using a revolving set of temporary male hosts alongside mainstay Jane Clayson all summer. Now, the network has confirmed that it’s booting Clayson from the morning show as well. The New York Times reports that she’ll be reassigned as a correspondent on the CBS evening newscast at the end of this month.

The move seems to write off completely CBS’ latest and most expensive attempt to create a viable rival to NBC’s ”Today” and ABC’s ”Good Morning America.” The network launched ”The Early Show” in 1999, building a new sidewalk-level Manhattan studio (like NBC’s and ABC’s) and hiring ”Today” alum Gumbel and relative newcomer Clayson as hosts. Steve Friedman,” Gumbel’s longtime ”Today” producer, was hired on in that role for ”Early.” Three years and some $30 million later (the Times estimates), all three are gone.

Throughout the summer, CBS never seemed any closer to hiring a replancement for Gumbel, and while Clayson remained stalwart (including a memorable moment in June, when she grilled Martha Stewart about the ImClone stock scandal, while Stewart chopped a cabbage and said, ”I want to focus on my salad”), her status as Gumbel’s hand-picked protegée didn’t bode well for her future.

The Times reports that prospective new hosts include Harry Smith, of A&E’s ”Biography,” who hosted the CBS morning show from 1987 to 1996. Others include NBC sports correspondent Hannah Storm and another ”Today” vet, ”Inside Edition”’s Deborah Norville. Former ”Today” producer Michael Bass has already been hired to replace Friedman.

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