Thursday, April 4, 2013

Jay Leno Retiring (Again) - Jimmy Fallon Will Host 'The Tonight Show'

I've been a fan of late night television all of my life. Having been born in 1987, I was just barely old enough to remember Johnny Carson as host of The Tonight Show. Actually, I remember Dana Carvey's legendary Johnny Carson sketches on Saturday Night Live more than Carson, who hosted Tonight for thirty years. I was five years old when the transition from Carson to Jay Leno occurred and a vaguely remember the scandal associated with it.

By all accounts, David Letterman probably should have been the host of The Tonight Show, but the job was given to Jay Leno. Not only did Letterman want the earlier time slot, he had paid his dues on NBC for several years and was even considered by Carson to be the natural successor. Because NBC always knows best, however, they gave the reins to Leno amid controversy. Letterman left NBC to take the helm at Late Show with David Letterman, which he's had incredible success with for the past twenty years. In 1996, a made-for-TV movie called The Late Shift premiered which aired a bit of the dirty laundry of the whole deal between Carson, Leno, and Letterman. The HBO movie starred Ed Begley, Jr and Kathy Bates. Daniel Roebuck and John Michael Higgins portrayed Leno and Letterman respectively and I don't think there was anyone better for the job.

For so long it was Leno vs Letterman in the late night wars and the two were practically unstoppable. That is, until Jay announced his retirement almost five years ago. I didn't become a huge fan of Conan O'Brien until I was in high school. I mean, 12:30 is awfully late for a kid, but as a teenager I stayed up late to watch he and Andy Richter together with the Max Weinberg 7. It was a great show and when Conan was given the opportunity to host The Tonight Show in 2009, I was so excited. I knew that he would be absolutely spectacular as host. 

In the end, he was given no time to build the show as his own. Sure, the ratings trailed off a bit. There were a lot of people who were so used to Jay Leno in that time slot that I'm sure there was difficulty with audience retention. The fact of the matter is that NBC just didn't give him enough time to grow as a host. They gave Leno a primetime show, which caused an issue with local affiliates. The network wanted to move The Tonight Show to 12:05 just to accomodate Leno, which was absolutely ridiculous. He had retired. He went on record saying that Conan was "the most deserving" person for the job. Then, like the diva that he is, decided that he wanted The Tonight Show back, in a ridiculous powerplay that left Conan, his staff, and his fans, on the outs.

I lost all respect I had for Jay Leno with the crappy hand that was dealt to Conan O'Brien. He didn't deserve to be pushed out like he was and just because Leno couldn't stand not being in the spotlight, Leno forced NBC to give him an ultimatum. Now, Leno says he's retiring again. In 2014, Jimmy Fallon will become the host of The Tonight Show with Seth Meyers being rumored to take over Late Night. Last night, both Leno and David Letterman made jokes about the host of Late Show not getting the Tonight gig again.

Letterman actually devoted a great deal of his monologue to the story. He basically said what we are all thinking. When will Leno decide to come out of retirement again? Only time will tell, obviously, but I certainly hope that Jay Leno stays retired for good. In its current state, The Tonight Show is relatively unwatchable. I hope that Jimmy Fallon is given a chance to do good things with the show. I have grown to really appreciate his talent during his time as host of Late Night, more so than when he was a regular on SNL. I hope he can bring a sense of fun back to The Tonight Show. It was there during Conan's short tenure, but nothing about Jay Leno is fun anymore. 

It's hard to say who the winner of the late night wars will truly be. My money is on Jimmy Kimmel. He grew up admiring David Letterman so much, I wonder if when Letterman retires CBS will try to steal him away from ABC. I really like Jimmy Kimmel Live the way it is and I would hate for things to change if he goes to a new network. Honestly, though, I just have no idea who could replace Letterman once his last day comes. Letterman will be 66 this year, which is the same age that Johnny Carson was when he left The Tonight Show. Letterman has never been my favorite of the hosts, but he's certainly a late night staple. Craig Ferguson would be my logical choice, but The Late Late Show is also so wonderful the way it is. I don't know if you could capture the same level of geekery in an earlier slot.

For now, we can just wait until February 2014 and hope that Jay Leno doesn't screw over another host and fans. I don't give a flying fig what Leno has to say about the whole situation either. I, do, however care about Jimmy Fallon's response to the situation. He seems so humbled by it all.

No comments:

Post a Comment