NBC has officially announced that Jimmy Fallon will replace Jay Leno on “The Tonight Show” in 2014. Reports claim that Fallon, currently the host of “Late Night,” will begin hosting the show in February.
The network announced the news via press release today. Leno will leave the famous night show after 22 years of hosting it. The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon will be executive produced by Saturday Night Live‘s Lorne Michaels, who currently heads Late Night With Jimmy Fallon. Fallon’s Tonight Show will broadcast from a renovated set at 30 Rock in New York City.
Though the exact date was not announced, NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke offered some hints about the timing, reports SlashFilm.
“Jay Leno is an entertainment icon, making millions of people laugh every weeknight for more than 20 years,” said Burke. “His long reign as the highest-rated late-night host is a testament to his work ethic and dedication to his viewers and to NBC.”
“I’m thrilled [Fallon] will become the sixth host of The Tonight Show at exactly the right moment, in conjunction with our coverage of next year’s Winter Olympic Games from Sochi, Russia,” he added in a statement.
Deadline points out that NBC’s broadcast of the Vancouver Winter Olympics in 2010 was lauched in a similar way when Leno returned to The Tonight Show following Conan O’Brien’s eight-month run.
In the statement, Leno offered his best to his successor. “Congratulations Jimmy. I hope you’re as lucky as me and hold on to the job until you’re the old guy. If you need me, I’ll be at the garage.” Fallon added, “I’m really excited to host a show that starts today instead of tomorrow.”
“Tonight” started there with Steve Allen as host in 1954. The show moved to California in 1972 with host Johnny Carson.
The report from 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.
With rumors swirling about the future of “The Tonight Show,” the two men competing for the host job, Jimmy Fallon and Jay Leno made a joint appearance earlier this month to poke fun at the rumors.
Leno and Fallon performed a heartfelt duet set to the tune of the classic “West Side Story” song, “Tonight.”
The two hosts jumped on the phone with each other yesterday and belted out a paraphrased version of “Tonight” from West Side Story.
The fact that Leno agreed to collaborate with Fallon in this sketch appears to be a signal that he, and more importantly NBC, wishes to avoid a messy PR battle when the transition occurs.
NBC has had two previous (and very public) battles for late night, first when Letterman and Leno competed to succeed Johnny Carson in 1992 and later, in 2009, when after promising Conan O’Brien the slot NBC grew anxious about O’Brien’s performance — and Leno’s ill-fated primetime show — and returned Leno to his late-night berth.