NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – The “Tonight Show” is coming back to New York.
Jay Leno announced on Wednesday that he will be leaving the show next spring and will be replaced by Jimmy Fallon.
NBC also confirms that the show will be moving to New York City when Fallon takes over. “Saturday Night Live” producer Lorne Michaels will take over as executive producer of the new “Tonight Show.” Fallon, currently the host of “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon,” on NBC is an SNL alum.
Leno moved the show to Burbank, California in 1972.
The move has been widely reported but not confirmed by the network until now. NBC reportedly just wrapped up negotiations with Fallon on a contract extension.
NBC did not say who will replace Fallon in his current time slot, which is one hour later than the “Tonight Show,” though SNL’s Seth Meyers is seen as a strong candidate to take over the 12:35 a.m. slot.
Steve Burke, chief executive officer of NBC Universal, said the network is purposefully making the move when Leno is still at the top of the ratings, just as when Leno replaced Johnny Carson at “The Tonight Show.”
“Jimmy Fallon is a unique talent and this is his time,” Burke said.
Fallon will take over in conjunction with NBC’s coverage of next year’s Winter Olympic games. NBC hopes for a big audience – much larger than what it gets in prime time now – to promote the switchover.
NBC is worried that ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel will establish himself as a go-to late night performer for a younger generation if the network didn’t move swiftly to install Fallon. But the move also has the potential to backfire with Leno’s fans, who did not embrace Conan O’Brien when Leno was temporarily moved to prime time a few years ago.
The first effort toward making that transition smooth came on Monday night, when Leno and Fallon appeared in a comic video making fun of all the late-night rumors. It aired in between each man’s show.
WCBS 880’s Marla Diamond reported that fans outside 30 Rockefeller Plaza waiting to go into Wednesday night’s taping of “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon” are excited for the change.
“I know it’s going to be big shoes to fill, but I think it’ll take him a while, he’ll get there,” a fan told Diamond.
NBC executives hope moving the 38-year-old Fallon to the 11:35 p.m. slot will help attract a younger audience.
“Jimmy Fallon’s always coming up with new stuff,” fan Dustin Parr said. “Jay Leno, getting kind of old for it. He’s lost some of his jokes that used to be funny, but the repeats are kind of getting old.”
But late night viewing preferences seem to be generational, Diamond reported. Dustin’s mother, for example, had a different take on the switch-up.
“There is no one who can replace Johnny Carson. That may date me, but Jay has done a very good job since he’s been in there,” she told Diamond.
Leno, in a statement, offered his congratulations to Fallon.
“I hope you’re as lucky as me and hold on to the job until you’re the old guy,” he said. “If you need me, I’ll be at the garage.”
Fallon said, “I’m really excited to host a show that starts today instead of tomorrow.”
Mayor Michael Bloomberg reacted to the news of the show returning to New York with the following statement:
“We’re thrilled the ‘Tonight Show’ is returning home to New York City, and it’s the perfect symbol of incredible comeback we’ve worked to create in our city’s film and television industry. Not since the since the invention of television has so much production been based in our city, which is creating good-paying jobs for New Yorkers in all five boroughs. Today, more than 130,000 New Yorkers make their living working behind the scenes on productions – a 30 percent increase over the past decade, and the numbers continue to grow. The ‘Tonight Show’ will bring even more jobs and economic activity to our city – and we couldn’t be happier that one of New York’s own is bringing the show back to where it started – and where it belongs.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo also released a statement on the show’s move across the country:
“On behalf of all New Yorkers, I am pleased to welcome The Tonight Show back to its first home here in the Empire State. As one of the longest running television shows in American history, The Tonight Show is an iconic production that has entertained countless fans of late-night television generation after generation. The original Tonight Show ushered in the modern era of television, broadcast here from New York,” said Cuomo. “It is only fitting that as The Tonight Show returns to our state, it will be headlined by New York’s own native son and resident, Jimmy Fallon. Today’s announcement builds on the recent surge of television and film production happening here in New York that has restored our state as a global film production capital and driven the creation of new jobs and business growth throughout the state. I welcome The Tonight Show home.”
Leno previously stepped away from the show to make room for Conan O’Brien, whose show had been airing after the “Tonight Show.” But Leno wanted the “Tonight Show” back after a brief prime time stint, prompting O’Brien to leave NBC.
What do you think of the move? Will you be sad to see Leno go, or do you think change was needed? Sound off below…
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