Jimmy Fallon to Replace Jay Leno on The Tonight Show?

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The Hollywood Reporter claims NBC is gearing up to hand over the reigns for The Tonight Show once again. And who is lined up to get the much-coveted hosting gig?

Jimmy Fallon.

Now I’ll be honest, I’m actually not much of a Fallon fan, but I really do think it’s time for Leno to retire.  After the way the whole Conan debacle went down, it’s also hard for me to like Leno anymore.  The nice-guy vibe he used to throw off (and that was even sold to us in the 1996 HBO movie, The Late Shiftjust doesn’t ring true anymore.

Here’s what THR says of the rumored shift:

The network says categorically no, but two high-level industry sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that NBC is moving toward a May announcement that the 2013-14 television season will be the last for Leno as host of the long-running late-night show. Sources expect the network to move Jimmy Fallon from his Late Night spot into the coveted 11:35 time slot with a soft launch during the summer of 2014 before a formal fall kickoff.

A Leno rep says, “We do not speculate on rumor.” Whether the network finally executes the Tonight transition plan remains to be seen. Anyone with even a passing sense of Leno’s personality knows that the hardworking comic would be reluctant to leave his perch, especially before his rival at CBS, David Letterman, announces his retirement. Leno and Letterman are both signed through 2014.

Sources believe the network will bring in Fallon partly out of concern about the competition on ABC, which moved younger-skewing Jimmy Kimmel to the 11:35 time slot in January. “The more time Jimmy Kimmel is in that slot, the more the young audience goes that way, the harder it is for Jimmy [Fallon] to keep that audience,” says a source familiar with the network’s thinking.

Leno’s Tonight still performs well for NBC, regularly besting his late-night rivals. But Kimmel is competitive in the 18-49 demo. “Kimmel has done extremely well,” a network veteran says, adding that he is unaware of any contemplated Leno move. “Jay wins overall, but on any given night, it’s neck-and-neck in 18-49. I understand where they might have fear and also feel that they own the solution [in Fallon.]”

Comcast, which owns NBC, in August imposed layoffs at Tonight. At the time, Leno took a big pay-cut from his reported $30 million salary.

The insider also suggests that David Letterman’s rumored 2014 retirement has a hand in this.

Personally, I’m a huge Kimmel fan.  He’s modern, hilarious and I think he and Craig Ferguson are the best of the late night hosts currently.  Fallon, whatever his weak points are (and I think there are plenty) is still at this point is better than Leno.

Stay tuned.

 

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