NBC has settled on two new stars for “The Tonight Show”: Jimmy Fallon and New York City.
NBC confirmed Wednesday it’s creating a new studio for Fallon in New York, where he hosts “Late Night.”
But the network did not comment on a report that the digs at its Rockefeller Plaza headquarters may become home to a transplanted, Fallon-hosted “Tonight.”
“Tonight” started there with Steve Allen as host in 1954. The show moved to California in 1972 with host Johnny Carson.
The report from insiders at NBC said they have decided that “Late Night” host Fallon, 38, will take over the reigns of the flagship show as early as next February or by fall 2014 at the latest – when Leno’s contract expires.
Looming over NBC is its messy, failed effort to replace Leno with Conan O’Brien, which ended in 2010 with Leno regaining “Tonight” and NBC losing O’Brien – who got a $45 million exit deal – to TBS.
One senior executive at the network was quoted as saying, “there is no way on earth that this is not going to happen.”
The latest roiling of the late-night waters began in January when ABC moved “Jimmy Kimmel Live” back to 11:35 p.m. Eastern to offer direct competition to Leno and CBS’ David Letterman.
With the potential for Kimmel, 45, to draw advertiser-favored young viewers away from Leno (62) and Letterman (65), it’s unsurprising that their networks might step up their succession planning.
At 38, Fallon is the youngest of the pack, says the Huff Post.
Leno, who briefly moved to prime-time to make room for O’Brien, has proved himself a wily survivor. Despite the challenge from Kimmel, he and “Tonight” have remained top-rated so far.
The rapid ascent of Fallon and his certain promotion is seen by analysts as NBC recognizing the competition offered by ABC’s popular Jimmy Kimmel.
The move to Mr. Fallon would be a significant cultural, and geographic, shift.
Mr. Leno delivers a more traditional Las Vegas-style comedy act that is viewed as a link to previous hosts, including his immediate predecessor, Johnny Carson.
Mr. Fallon, 38, offers a more contemporary and varied brand of entertainment, with a heavy reliance on the Internet.
His best material gains additional life on sites like YouTube, and he actively courts interaction with his viewers by having them submit comedy ideas through Twitter, reports the NY Times.
An NBC spokesman told the New York Times that the studio was being specifically built for Jimmy Fallon.
For Fallon though, staying in New York, where ‘Late Night’ is filmed makes perfect sense.
He is a native of the state from Saugerties and his mentor and ‘Late Night’ producer and creator of Saturday Night Live, Lorne Michaels, resides in the city, writes the Daily Mail.
Although late-night hosts are known for making fun of their network bosses on-air, the timing of Leno’s latest jabs at NBC seemed to make the network particularly uncomfortable. They reportedly asked him to stop; he hasn’t.
On Monday, Leno made a joke about the snakes that St. Patrick drove from Ireland moved to the United States to become NBC executives.