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Rumors are heating up that the current "Late Night" host will take over for Jay Leno, whose contract runs out next spring. Sources tell the New York Times that NBC has committed the "Tonight Show" gig to Fallon and promised to move the show to the East Coast (it currently films in Burbank, California).
[Related: See Jimmy Fallon on the Cover of GQ Magazine]
In fact, an NBC spokesperson confirmed that the network is building a new state-of-the-art studio for Fallon at 30 Rockefeller Plaza. A move to New York would be would be a return to the show's roots; itshow debuted there in 1954, with Steve Allen as its host.
If Fallon does succeed Leno, he would likely do so by fall 2014 at the latest. Sources told the Hollywood Reporter that Fallon called Leno out of deference. It seems the younger host wasn’t expecting such a firestorm of gossip. “He was told it would be seamless and [NBC] would take care of it. He didn't expect this,” a source said.
The "Tonight Show" hosting job has been the focus of several "late-night wars." The first took place in 1992 after Johnny Carson's retirement, when NBC snubbed the expected successor, David Letterman, and installed Leno as host.
More recently, in 2009, Conan O'Brien took over for Leno, who moved to primetime. When the show's ratings flagged and Leno's series failed, NBC attempted to shift O'Brien to a later timeslot. He refused and left "The Tonight Show," with Leno reclaiming the host's chair. The subsequent furor boosted O'Brien's popularity, and a few months later, he created his own late-night program on TBS.
With this latest changing of the guard, NBC hopes to appeal to younger viewers, some of whom are being siphoned away by Jimmy Kimmel on ABC. Still, Leno still finishes first in the ratings -- even among young adults -- which has viewers wondering: What happens if Fallon's "Tonight Show" stumbles, as O'Brien's did? NBC wouldn't take the show back and give it to Leno again, would they?
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- Jay Leno
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