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Leno leaving 'Tonight', Fallon to be new host

2:40 PM, Apr 3, 2013   |    comments
  • Changing of the guard: Jay Leno & Jimmy Fallon (Getty Images)
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(USA Today) -- Jay Leno, host of NBC's Tonight Show, announced Wednesday that he will wrap up more than two decades on the iconic late-night show in spring 2014. And NBC said Jimmy Fallon, host of NBC's Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, will slide into that role after Leno's exit.

The change will coincide with NBC's coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympics.

As part of the transition, The Tonight Show will return to its original home in 30 Rock in New York, and will be executive-produced by Emmy Award winner Lorne Michaels (Saturday Night Live, 30 Rock).

Programming plans for Fallon's current 12:35 a.m. ET/PT time slot currently are in development and will be announced soon, though Seth Meyers, Saturday Night Live's head writer and host of its Weekend Update, is a candidate.

"Congratulations Jimmy," Leno said in a statement. "I hope you're as lucky as me and hold on to the job until you're the old guy. If you need me, I'll be at the garage."

Said Fallon: "I'm really excited to host a show that starts today instead of tomorrow."

NBC is plotting the move as a generational shift, as Leno, 62, gives way to Fallon, 38. David Letterman is 65, and ABC in January moved Jimmy Kimmel, 45, a half-hour earlier to go head to head with Leno and Letterman. Yet Leno remains the top-rated show, and NBC Universal officials likened the handoff at the No. 1 show to Leno's replacement of Johnny Carson in 1992.

The difference is that Carson voluntarily retired, while Leno would have remained at Tonight as long as NBC would have him. Leno's current contract expires in September 2014, but the network smoothed the way for the transition, got Leno on board, and the two hosts even teamed up for a jokey video that aired Monday night, suggesting there were no hard feelings.

Leno was displaced once before, in 2009, when NBC shifted Conan O'Brien into The Tonight Show, fulfilling a promise it had made the red-haired comedian five years earlier. But after several months, when O'Brien's ratings faltered and an experimental primetime Leno show failed, NBC reversed course, O'Brien bolted, and Leno returned to Tonight.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg weighed in on the move to NYC - and the jobs that move could bring: "We couldn't be happier that one of New York's own is bringing the show back to where it started," he said in a statement.

CNN talk show host Piers Morgan tweeted: "Hope people stop sniping now and give (Leno) the send-off he deserves." Bravo's Andy Cohen tweeted, "MAZEL to the great @JimmyFallon." And actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt tweeted to Fallon, "Congratulations ... so, so happy + excited for you."

(USA Today)

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