It’s deja vu all over again as Jay Leno is out at NBC’s The Tonight Show. Only this time, it sounds more permanent. Jay Leno announced today that he will wrap up what has been 22 years of headlining the legendary late-night franchise in Spring 2014. Also today, NBC officially announced what has been buzzed about in recent weeks, that Jimmy Fallon, who is currently hosting another NBC late-night franchise, Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, will transition into new hosting duties on The Tonight Show franchise after Jay Leno concludes his run.
As part of this transition, The Tonight Show will be leaving the West Coast and returning to its original home at 30 Rock in New York City, and will be executive-produced by Lorne Michaels (Saturday Night Live, 30 Rock). NBC does not have word on its programming plans for the 12:35am ET time period at this point.
“Congratulations Jimmy,” said Jay Leno today. “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.”
“I’m really excited to host a show that starts today instead of tomorrow,” joked Jimmy Fallon.
In a sign of more cordiality compared to the last time Jay Leno left The Tonight Show (and even compared with some of the jabs that have been taking place in recent weeks between Leno and NBC), Steve Burke, CEO of NBCUniversal, said, “Jay Leno is an entertainment icon, making millions of people laugh every weeknight for more than 20 years. His long reign as the highest-rated late-night host is a testament to his work ethic and dedication to his viewers and to NBC. We are purposefully making this change when Jay is No.1, just as Jay replaced Johnny Carson when he was No. 1. Jimmy Fallon is a unique talent and this is his time. I’m thrilled he will become the sixth host of The Tonight Show …”
Jay Leno has hosted The Tonight Show since May 1992 (with a brief hiatus to test the waters in primetime a few years ago). Jimmy Fallon took over the reins of Late Night in March 2009.