Jimmy Fallon Takes Over The Tonight Show in 2014

Jay Leno and Jimmy Fallon

Jay is out and Jimmy’s in – that’s the word from NBC today, as the network ended weeks of rumours by announcing that Jimmy Fallon will take over as host of the Tonight Show following the 2014 Winter Olympics. The show will also move back to New York, where it was filmed before late night king Johnny Carson took it to Hollywood, and will be executive produced by Saturday Night Live creator (and Canuck) Lorne Michaels.

“I hope you’re as lucky as me and hold on to the job until you’re the old guy,” current Tonight Show host Jay Leno said to Fallon in a statement sure to elicit some chuckles considering the debacle that ensued after Leno handed over the reins of the show to Conan O’Brien in 2009.

In fairness to Leno, he’s remained atop the late night ratings for virtually his entire tenure as Tonight Show host, and that doesn’t look to change by 2014.

“We are purposefully making this change when Jay is No. 1, just as Jay replaced Johnny Carson when he was No. 1,” Steve Burke, NBC Universal’s Chief Executive, said. “Jimmy Fallon is a unique talent and this is his time.”

Change is nice, but transitioning Tonight Show hosts has proven notoriously difficult. Steve Allen, the franchise’s first host, stepped down willingly, making way for Jack Parr. However, when Parr left, NBC wanted game show host Johnny Carson to take the spot – a role he declined until the network ran through most of its other options. The decades-long feud between David Letterman and Jay Leno began when Carson stepped down in 1992, and both were pegged to take his spot. Leno won that messy fight before entering another one in 2010 when, after leaving the show, he nabbed the desk back from ousted host Conan O’Brien.

This time around, the transition looks to be relatively smooth. Yes, Leno’s taken jabs at NBC execs during recent monologues, but that’s also par for the course for any late night host. The video below would have you believe that Fallon, who currently hosts NBC’s Late Night, and Leno are sing-along friends. More telling, however, is what Leno said to the New York Times comparing this Tonight Show departure to when he made way for O’Brien: “The main difference between this and the other time is I’m part of the process. The last time the decision was made without me. I came into work one day and — you’re out … there really aren’t any complications like there were the last time. This time it feels right.”

Fallon, meanwhile, quipped, “I’m really excited to host a show that starts today instead of tomorrow.”

As reported earlier, the move is in part believed to be a counter jab to rival network ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live!, which recently got bumped up to the prime 11:35 time slot. A few weeks ago the New York Times reported, “Many TV executives speculated that NBC could not afford to wait too long to promote Fallon, or it might risk having Kimmel, 45, lock up the young adult viewers who are the economic lifeblood of late-night television.”

As far as NBC’s Late Night is concerned, speculation is that current Saturday Night Live cast member Seth Myers could be in line for the job. Combined with Fallon’s move to the Tonight Show, the duo could prove one of the most exciting one-two punches in late night since Carson and Letterman aired back to back on NBC in the 1980s and early 1990s.