March 21, 2013 by David K. Sutton
Here We Go Again: Fallon To Replace Leno As ‘Tonight Show’ Host?
The Hollywood Reporter and the New York Times have reported NBC is planning to replace “Tonight Show” host Jay Leno with current “Late Night” host Jimmy Fallon. This comes after the Conan O’Brien/Tonight Show debacle that ended only three short years ago. I say “debacle” not because of Conan, but because of how NBC handled the whole situation.
So here we go again, NBC is secretly planning to replace the highest rated late night talk show host. I don’t say that as a fan of Jay Leno, because to me, the Tonight Show has been dead since Conan exited the stage. But Leno is still king of late night ratings, even with Jimmy Kimmel’s move to 11:35.
Before the Conan situation, I still wasn’t the biggest Leno fan in the world, but I could tolerate him. But I consider myself an old school Tonight Show fan. That show hasn’t been the same since the Johnny Carson days. And yes, you can go even more old school than that when it comes to beloved Tonight Show hosts.
So if the rumors are true, not only will Fallon take over as host of “Tonight,” the show will move from Burbank, CA to Rockefeller Plaza in New York City. NBC has confirmed they are building a new studio for Fallon, but they have not said it is for a shift to the earlier time slot. And you have to wonder how much of “Late Night” comes over to “Tonight,” because Fallon has managed to carve out a successful niche for himself. It would be unfortunate to mess with that formula for the earlier (older) audience.
And I agree with Late Night producer Lorne Michaels when he said, “He’s [Fallon] the closest to Carson that I’ve seen of this generation.” Think about it, Johnny Carson took over the Tonight Show at around the same age (late-thirties) and Carson’s style was more on the silly, yet reserved, side of the comedy spectrum, which I think is also an accurate description of Fallon. And Fallon has built a reputation for doing character skits, just like the great Carson.
So maybe Jimmy Fallon is a good fit for the once great Tonight Show, bringing new energy to an old franchise. And moving Tonight (back) to New York City will also breathe new life into a reinvented, yet familiar late night talk show brand.