Suspense is building over how outgoing "Tonight Show" host Conan O'Brien will spend what is expected to be his last night at NBC.
O'Brien has all but admitted that Friday will be his final show, joking during his monologue Tuesday night that he was "just three days away from the biggest drinking binge in history."
The show announced that Friday's guests will be Oscar winner Tom Hanks and comic actor Will Ferrell, who was O'Brien's first guest when he made his "Tonight Show" debut in June.
On his Twitter page, Hanks, who was originally slated to appear on the show Tuesday night, posted a message about his upcoming appearance: "Flag on me with CoCo tonight! Going on Friday's Big Show. What WILL happen? Tune in. Hanx."
A woman answering the ticket hotline for the "Tonight Show" this afternoon said that she was not booking tickets for shows after this week. "There's no official word that we are off the air, but that's the expectation," she said.
In a post Tuesday to the show's official Web site, a "Tonight Show" staff blogger said the "days are definitely speeding up around here."
"Things are starting to move very fast. The scenery outside the window is starting to blend together," wrote Aaron Bleyaert. "Who knows what will happen once this coaster plunges over the edge?"
Nostalgic fans who might never see the show live can still buy tickets on eBay, where one Arizona-based watcher listed a "Tonight Show" ticket supposedly autographed by flame-haired O'Brien for $6,000. As of this afternoon, no one had bid on it.
All eyes have been on O'Brien in recent days after the former "Late Night With Conan O'Brien" host rejected a plan by NBC to move the "Tonight Show" to 12:05 a.m. to make room for an 11:35 show hosted by former "Tonight Show" host Jay Leno.
Leno's own 10 p.m. show, "The Jay Leno Show," was canceled after flagging ratings and complaints from local affiliates that the show provided a weak lead-in to local newscasts. Viewership for O'Brien's own show, until recently, was also down sharply compared to the days when Leno hosted.
Leno and O'Brien have both taken shots at NBC and, in some cases, at each other since NBC announced its late-night shuffle. But it's been O'Brien's bitterly comic jabs at the peacock network -- Tuesday night, O'Brien went bilingual in his attacks, saying in Spanish that "NBC is run by brainless sons of goats who eat money and crap trouble" -- that seem to have driven his ratings higher and encouraged passionate fans, including hundreds who held rallies in four U.S. cities earlier this week in support of the host many refer to by the nickname "CoCo."
NBC Universal president and CEO Jeff Zucker defended the network's decision to shift Leno back into the 11:35 p.m. time slot he held for 17 years before O'Brien took over "The Tonight Show."
"From a financial standpoint, this is the right move," Zucker said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. "We didn't want to do it, because we wanted to keep Conan. But we're going to be fine, even paying Conan to go away."
He told the newspaper he was surprised at the "nasty" turn the shake-up had taken.
"We were not surprised that Conan was disappointed in having his show back up a half hour. But we were very surprised and disappointed at how nasty it turned," he said.