Not only is NBC planning a new host for The Tonight Show, but a new home, too – though neither will be particularly unfamiliar to viewers of late night.
Despite his present high ratings, when the show’s long-running host Jay Leno’s contract expires in the fall of 2014, he will be succeeded by current Late Night host Jimmy Fallon, 38, reports Thursday’s The New York Times.
Furthermore, according to the paper, once the shift takes place, the program will move back to New York – the original home to the show, starting in 1954, with Steve Allen, and then, Jack Paar, as host, until 1972, when Johnny Carson (who took over in 1962) moved the show west, where it has remained ever since.
Carson, it was said, wanted access to Hollywood stars and to enjoy the California lifestyle.
Fallon’s Late Night is already in New York, at NBC’s Studios in Rockefeller Center – 30 Rock. The Hollywood Reporter says an official announcement will be made at the May upfronts.
The trade journal also points to a quote from Late Night executive producer Lorne Michaels in the April GQ: “I’m not allowed to say it – yet. But I think there’s an inevitability to it. He’s the closest to Carson that I’ve seen of this generation.”
During Wednesday night’s monologue, Leno, 62, who succeeded Johnny Carson upon his retirement in 1992, made no mention of the prospective changeover, though he did take a shot at his network for its low ratings.
NBC has not commented – its New York affiliate WNBC reported The Times story Thursday morning in a straightforward fashion. Still, it is said that the network wishes to avoid the problems and bad press it encountered three years ago when Leno, who was moved to prime time, and Conan O’Brien, who took over Tonight, essentially played musical chairs with the late-night program.
O’Brien was eventually sent packing, and is now on TBS. Meanwhile, on ABC, Jimmy Kimmel’s show is gaining ratings traction and cachet in the Tonight timeslot. On CBS, David Letterman – who wished to replace Carson on Tonight in 1992 – sarcastically soldiers on.