April 3, 2013

Leno to leave 'Tonight Show,' Fallon to take over

The Associated Press

NEW YORK — NBC on Wednesday announced its long-rumored switch in late night, replacing Jay Leno at the "Tonight" show with Jimmy Fallon and moving the iconic franchise back to New York.

click image to enlarge

This undated promotional image released by NBC shows Jay Leno, host of "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," left, and Jimmy Fallon, host of "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon," in Los Angeles.

AP

Fallon will take over in about a year, the switch coinciding with NBC's Winter Olympics coverage. Veteran "Saturday Night Live" producer Lorne Michaels also will take over as executive producer of "Tonight."

NBC made no announcement on who would replace Fallon at the 12:35 a.m. "Late Night" slot, although Seth Meyers of "Saturday Night Live" is considered a strong candidate.

The change at "Tonight," the longest-running and most popular late-night talk show, had been widely reported but not confirmed by the network until Wednesday. NBC reportedly just wrapped up negotiations with Fallon on a contract extension.

Steve Burke, chief executive officer of NBC Universal, said the network is purposefully making the move when Leno is still at the top of the ratings, just as when Leno replaced Johnny Carson at "Tonight" in 1992.

"Jimmy Fallon is a unique talent and this is his time," Burke said.

Leno, in a statement, offered his congratulations to Fallon.

"I hope you're as lucky as me and hold on to the job until you're the old guy," he said. "If you need me, I'll be at the garage."

Fallon said, "I'm really excited to host a show that starts today instead of tomorrow."

Emotions were mixed among people waiting outside Leno's Burbank, Calif., studio to attend the taping of Wednesday's "Tonight" show.

"We love you, Jimmy!" said Natalie Renfro, 45, of Salt Lake City. But she gave a shout out to Leno, too: "I'll miss that big chin!"

Ryan Kelly, 39, of Los Angeles, said he's a Leno fan but added that the comedian has "had a good run. ... It's probably time for a fresh face. He's done a good job and I'm sure he'll pop up on TV somewhere else."

As for switching to Fallon, "I'll give it a shot," Kelly said.

On his "Late Show" Wednesday on CBS, David Letterman feasted on NBC's announcement.

"Jay Leno now is being replaced, and this is the second time this has happened," he said in his monologue. "I mean, it's crazy. He's being replaced by a younger late night talk show host — what could possibly go wrong? Honestly. They had pretty good luck with this in the past."

Later, Letterman offered a backhanded salute to Leno that wished him well with his stand-up appearances.

"But good luck to Jay. I know he'll be out on the road, getting it done and taking care of business. And congratulations on a nice long run there at the 'Tonight Show,' if, in fact, you're not coming back," Letterman said, according to a CBS transcript.

He devoted his Top 10 list to "things we'll miss about Jay Leno," including this at No. 4: "Can't remember the name of the bit, but it's the one where Jay is walking."

NBC has been quietly building a new studio for Fallon at its Rockefeller Center headquarters. "Tonight" began in New York in the 1950s, but Carson moved it to California in 1972. Starting next year, Fallon, Letterman, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert will tape late-night shows in New York. ABC's Jimmy Kimmel and TBS's Conan O'Brien will be the top California-based shows.

"The 'Tonight' show will bring even more jobs and economic activity to our city, and we couldn't be happier that one of New York's own is bringing the show back to where it started, and where it belongs," said New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

(Continued on page 2)

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