Jay Leno is out at The Tonight Show. NBC has reportedly made a commitment to Jimmy Fallon to be the show’s next host. Jay Leno has hosted The Tonight show since he took over for Johnny Carson in 1992. There hasn’t been a timetable set yet for Fallon to take over the show yet but with The Olympics being broadcast on NBC in February of next year, speculation is that Fallon would take over during that time when most of America will be watching NBC. Timing the move to coincide with The Olympics would have the added benefit of keeping Jay Leno from going to another network immediately after The Tonight Show because his contract doesn’t expire until the end of 2014. Leno has been taking shots at NBC recently as the rumors have begun to swirl most recently saying that NBC was extinct and that his bosses were snakes.
The handling of Jay Leno’s time at The Tonight Show is obviously going to be tumultuous as was the last time the show changed hands. Back in ’92 there was speculation that David Letterman would be taking over for Johnny Carson when Carson retired but in a surprise move, NBC went with Jay Leno and the Leno/Letterman feud was born (which was even the subject of a book and a TV movie). There is no doubt that NBC wants the young and hip Jimmy Fallon to take over the show so the question causing the problem is when will that happen? NBC and Jay Leno obviously have differing views on the timeline and if the past is any guide, Jay Leno will not be getting what he wants.
In other Tonight Show news, NBC has also begun work on a studio at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, the previous home of The Tonight Show, and will reportedly be moving the show back to New York once Fallon takes over. Moving The Tonight Show back to New York would keep Fallon in his element close to the people who have helped his career like SNL’s Lorne Michaels. His house band The Roots would also more than likely stay with the show if they are in New York which would be a big plus for Fallon. A move back to New York signals a major shift in thinking for the network and allows them to make a total break with The Tonight show of Jay Leno.
Whatever happens over the next few months, it is sure to be interesting. Every day Leno stays on the air, he will get madder and madder. Will NBC continue to allow him the forum to attack them? Do they want a repeat of their last transition? It’s going to be fun to watch and all of a sudden, The Tonight Show has become must watch TV for the first time in a long time.