May 15, 2014 5:20pm PT by Lacey Rose
CBS' Leslie Moonves Addresses Joel McHale, Neil Patrick Harris Late-Night Rumors
CBS chief Leslie Moonves managed to get through his entire upfront presentation without having to address his network's new faces of late night.
Onstage, the only late-night focus was honoring outgoing host David Letterman, who joined Moonves for a joke-fueled swan song. But off of it, the rumor mill went into overdrive, thanks to a photo with Moonves, wife Julie Chen and comedian Joel McHale that Chen tweeted from the WME upfront dinner the night before -- and a subsequent tweet from Norm Macdonald suggesting McHale had secured the 12:30 a.m. gig.
Stoking the fire, another rumored late-night candidate, Neil Patrick Harris, had gone on Howard Stern's show and revealed that he had been approached by Moonves and CBS entertainment chairman Nina Tassler about both the Late Show and the Late Late Show, but ultimately turned down the offer for fear of being "bored" by the repetition. (He suggested he'd prefer a weekly variety show.)
During a sit-down with Bloomberg Television's Trish Regan Thursday, Moonves was forced to address all of it -- and in that process, put a lot of the rumors to rest. He started with Harris, whose recollection he said was "not exactly true." He noted how close he and his family were with the actor, and that after Harris' nine-year run on CBS' How I Met Your Mother, he and Tassler had a conversation with him about his future.
"We said, 'All right Neil, what do you want to do? What are the possibilities? Want to come do a new series with us? And we knew probably Letterman and 12:30 might be open, late night. What do you think about that? So, it was a very general topic. I wouldn’t say we didn’t talk about it, but he wasn’t offered it per se," Moonves clarified, adding that he'd love to have Harris, a four-time Tony host, back in the CBS family "any way" he would like to do it. "Variety? Do another comedy? Who knows?"
Next came McHale, whom Moonves noted he had not previously met. He then added that his wife, a host on the The Talk, took several pictures that night, including shots of the pair with LL Cool J and with Barbara Walters. "Joel McHale is a wonderful talent. We'd love to have him over at CBS in some way, but there was no discussion about 12:30," he said, adding that there are a lot of people throwing their hat in the ring. In an interview following Ferguson's announcement, Tassler told THR that she had no plans to address the 12:30 hole until after the upfronts.
Finally, Moonves addressed Chelsea Handler's potential, particularly after his network denied any conversations were taking place about late night when the disgruntled Chelsea Lately host Instagrammed a shot of her preparing for a business meeting with a CBS logo on her papers back in mid-April. Regan took the formal network comment to mean she was out of the running, but Moonves offered: "The only reason we said not is because she was tweeting out these pictures with CBS logos and all that. But Chelsea’s great. There are a lot of possibilities. There are a lot of terrific people there."
Watch a video clip of the interview below.