NBC prepping Jimmy Fallon for 'Tonight Show' takeover

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Image Credit: Lloyd Bishop/NBC

It looks like there’s a reason why Jay Leno’s been sounding awfully testy about his bosses lately: A report in the New York Times today says it has promised Jimmy Fallon that he will succeed Jay Leno as the next host of The Tonight Show no later than fall 2014.

The plan is to move the show from Burbank, Calif. to New York, where Fallon currently tapes his show. There is also talk of it returning to a 90-minute format.

It’s unclear when an announcement will take place, and for now, NBC is only confirming that it is building a brand new set for Fallon.

The Tonight Show first began in New York with Steve Allen in 1954.

The news comes on the heels of Jimmy Kimmel’s emergence as a key player in the 11:30 p.m. timeslot. Though Leno continues to dominate in viewers and adults 18-49, Kimmel has been a success for ABC in terms of ad sales. ABC is able to attract premium ad dollars because of the younger viewers who have migrated to the show that also touts a strong musical (see: way hipper) element.

Earlier this month, The Hollywood Reporter posted a story that revealed succession plans involving Fallon, but NBC issued a categorical denial.

In the meantime, Leno’s mounted a defense on his show by taking digs at the top brass. On Monday, he compared his bosses to “snakes” while last night, he took a swipe at the ratings. Leno, like his counterparts at ABC and CBS, have long made fun of his superiors but he also has a right to sound and act a little cocky: The last time he was booted out of late night to make way for a younger talent like Conan O’Brien, it turned into a financial and public relations nightmare. It took a little time but, once returned to his throne at 11:30 p.m., Leno was able to bring The Tonight Show back to the winner’s circle where it has remained.

Because of Leno’s dominance, there has to be some fear that Fallon may not be able to hold onto his predecessor’s lead should he ever assume the chair. Longtime Leno fans who love that every man quality may not stick around to watch the younger guy, and the poor lead-in that NBC is currently offering in primetime isn’t doing The Tonight Show any favors. And there is always the chance that a changing of the guard at 11:30 on NBC — and eventually at CBS, where David Letterman, 65, will beg off sooner rather than later — could help Kimmel even more.

For his part, Fallon is remaining humble about whatever change may be in store. In the issue of GQ out March 26, said “who really cares” about whether he’s the heir apparent. “In the nicest way. It would be great, sure, I guess. I’d love it, but it’s not on my mind. I’m in no rush to do anything,” he said in the magazine. “I’m kind of a boring character in that book. I’m not in a fight with Jay or Conan, or any of them. I don’t have that story.”

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