Jay Leno's "Tonights" may be numbered. According to a new report from the New York Times, NBC executives are planning to replace the 62-year-old comedian on The Tonight Show with Late Night host Jimmy Fallon. The deal has yet to be finalized, but several network sources involved in the decision say the switch is expected to happen by the fall of 2014 — "at the latest."
Fallon's reign in the coveted chair would reportedly bring the show back to New York City, where it filmed from 1954 to 1972. (Johnny Carson moved the set to Burbank in the 1970s to gain more access to Hollywood stars.) Per the Times, NBC has already quietly begun work on a new state-of-the-art studio at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, where Fallon, 38, rose to fame on Saturday Night Live and now tapes Late Night.
The passing of the Tonight Show torch from Leno to Fallon would be the second such changing of the guard during Leno's tenure. Three years ago, execs gave the show to Conan O'Brien, only to reverse their decision seven months later when O'Brien failed to attract a large-enough audience.
Ratings-wise, Leno is still a success for NBC. Though rival host Jimmy Kimmel enjoyed a couple of nights at the top when he moved to an earlier time-slot and began to compete directly with The Tonight Show and The Late Show With David Letterman, the Times reports that Leno recently regained his No. 1 ranking among total viewers.
However, there are other factors to consider besides ratings, including the comedian's occasionally strained relationship with his NBC bosses, whom he referred to as "snakes" in a recent monologue. Leno also comes with baggage in the form of feuds with both Kimmel and Letterman, whereas Fallon has been relatively drama-free.
"I'm kind of a boring character in that book," the Late Night host tells GQ in a new interview. "I'm not in a fight with Jay or Conan, or any of them. I don't have that story."
Fallon adds that he's "in no rush" to leave his current post to replace Leno. "I mean, in the nicest way, who really cares," he says. "In the nicest way. It would be great, sure, I guess. I'd love it, but it's not on my mind."
It's certainly on everyone else's mind. According to Late Night producer Lorne Michaels, Fallon's takeover is just a matter of time. "I'm not allowed to say it — yet," he tells GQ. "But I think there's an inevitability to it. He's the closest to Carson that I've seen of this generation."
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