Leno’s Out, Fallon’s In and Another Late-night Shuffle Begins

Will there be a new chapter in NBC's tumultuous late-night history when Jimmy Fallon takes over The Tonight Show next year?

Credit: NBC

It’s official: Jimmy Fallon will replace Jay Leno as the host of The Tonight Show early next year

Jimmy Fallon will replace Jay Leno as the host of The Tonight Show after the Olympics, and the late night talk show landscape changes yet again

On April 3, NBC finally confirmed that Jay Leno would step down from his job as The Tonight Show host in February 2014, with Late Night’s Jimmy Fallon taking over the venerable talk show, which will move from its longtime home in Burbank to a brand new studio in New York. 

According to all parties involved, this transition promises to be a lot less bumpy than the last time NBC tried to replace Leno, with a harebrained 2004 scheme that was meant to keep Conan O’Brien from moving to another network by dangling The Tonight Show like a carrot on a string, promising him the job five years later. 

We all remember how that turned out, so NBC is trying to avoid a repeat of the previous debacle by taking a vastly different approach this time out. 

“The main difference between this and the other time is I’m part of the process,” Leno told The New York Times. “The last time the decision was made without me. I came into work one day and — you’re out . . . this time it feels right.” 

Will Jay Leno Stay in Late Night?

Don’t for a second think that workaholic Leno is going to shuffle off to retirement, and it’s practically a given that he’ll be launching a new talk show somewhere else. When it comes to network television, however, Leno’s only option would be Fox, which has made several failed attempts to launch a late-night franchise — who can forget the six weeks of torture that was The Chevy Chase Show?

Moving to Fox could be a win-win for both the network and Leno, although it seems unlikely Leno would be able to maintain the same ratings dominance with four network talk shows competing for the same viewers. 

If Leno does have a next move in mind, he’s not revealing it yet. “I’ve done this job for a long time and I really enjoy it,” Leno told the Times. “Would I do it again? Believe me, the phone’s not ringing off the hook. It will be nice if people seem interested. But I’ll let it sit where it is.”

Originally published in TVW. For daily programming updates and on-screen Entertainment news, subscribe to the free TVW e-newsletters, or purchase a subscription to the weekly magazine.