Following weeks of rumors that NBC was in some stage of a plan to replace Jay Leno with Jimmy Fallon at some point in 2014, the story broke in the New York Times Wednesday afternoon that NBC and its parent company, Comcast, have not only committed to Fallon as Leno’s successor, but are building a studio for him at 30 Rock.
The change, set to take effect in 2014, would move The Tonight Show to its original home city of New York. Tonight, early in Johnny Carson’s stint, was filmed in the same building, in the studio now occupied by Saturday Night Live. Fallon’s current show is elsewhere in the building.
The Times story, which cited “several senior television executives involved in the decision,” was written by Bill Carter, who has owned the late-night beat for decades and authored the definitive books about the Letterman/Leno and Leno/O’Brien late night wars.
Jay Leno, though, hasn’t been silent. He’s snuck jokes into his monologues the last few nights taking shots at NBC executives, both poking fun at the network’s anemic ratings and, the night before, comparing the network’s brass to the snakes St. Patrick drove out of Ireland.
I’m not sure what’s so controversial about the comments. Late night hosts have been taking shots at network execs in their monologues pretty much forever- Letterman used to do it, and Leno has for years, regardless of whether he was in a high-profile contract dispute with them or not. And sure, the jokes may be pretty weak-tea, but that’s been par for the course for Jay for the past decade and a half.
So is the succession a done deal? I wouldn’t be so sure- after all, NBC built Conan a new studio, too.