Jay Leno, who has hosted the show since taking over from Johnny Carson in 1992 (minus a short detour; more on that in a second), is expected to step down when his contract is up in September of 2014, at which point Fallon will take over.
Fallon's current show, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, is young and quirky and just about the only late night talk show worth watching. When he was announced as the host of Late Night, it was met with skepticism and derision; Fallon found his footing pretty quickly and proved everyone wrong by carving out something special in the late night landscape. It's hard to imagine that within a few years, he's already prepared to take over the reins of the longest-running talk show in late night, but NBC is ready to make that gamble.
It's also hard to understand why Leno is being forced out -- again -- despite still having the number one show. This is exactly what the network did back in 2009, during the Conan O'Brien debacle that led to the primetime Jay Leno Show. At least in that situation, it was a case of NBC trying to retain O'Brien, who threatened to walk if he wasn't given The Tonight Show. In this case, Fallon isn't pressuring anyone (I don't think); this is the network trying to compete with the younger audience that ABC has found by moving Jimmy Kimmel Live! into an earlier time slot.
No telling if this is a gamble that will work. My biggest concern is that Fallon's show won't be allowed to be Fallon's show at 10:30; it's goofy and weird and irreverent, and far from the vanilla safeness that The Tonight Show has been for over two decades. The fact that the show will relocate to New York and that Lorne Michaels (who produces Late Night) is coming aboard as producer makes me feel a little better. If NBC just wants to do the Jimmy Fallon show one hour earlier, I'm all for it. If they want to show to change to appeal to older, middle American audiences, I think it's a bad move for everyone involved.
There's been no announcement as to who will take over Fallon's current slot at Late Night, though most fingers are pointing towards Saturday Night Live head writer and "Weekend Update" anchor Seth Meyers.
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