How did Jay Leno really feel in 2009, when NBC revealed its master plan to hand The Tonight Show over to Conan O’Brien? The comedian doesn’t mince words in an upcoming interview with 60 Minutes, telling Steve Kroft that the decision took him completely by surprise. “I was blindsided,” he says, according to CBS News.
And though Leno adds that he never asked his corporate overlords to explain their reasoning, hearing he was being replaced felt like being rejected by his girlfriend: “You know, you have a girl [who] says, ‘I don’t want to see you anymore.’ Why? You know, she doesn’t want to see you anymore, okay?”
This time around, though, Leno seems much more at peace with the network’s machinations — even though, as the host notes in the clip below, he “probably would have stayed [on Tonight]a little longer” if he had his druthers.
That said, Leno adds, “it’s not my decision” — and he believes that bringing in “an extremely qualified young guy” like Jimmy Fallon, whom Leno likens to “a young Johnny [Carson],” makes “perfect sense.” So maybe this isn’t a happy ending for Leno — but at least it’s one he can understand.
Not surprisingly, a flurry of reports have surfaced that Jay Leno, the reigning King of Late Night, is already fielding inquiries from other networks about doing a new show once Jimmy Fallon succeeds him on The Tonight Show in April. With NBC unlikely to find him another spot — we all remember how that Leno-in-primetime experiment turned out — moving to another network makes sense for the host, and one option in particular could make for an attractive third chapter in his career: CNN.
You haven’t heard? Despite denials from CNN reps, insiders insist that CNN President Jeff Zucker — Leno’s old boss at NBC — met with the 63-year-old comedian about hosting a late-night show for the cable news network. Apparently, this is something that Zucker’s wanted for some time: he’s reportedly been on the lookout for a Daily Show-like program to help shore up their late evening ratings. And the cable network could certainly use a positive headline or two; Zucker and the net have been dogged with poor ratings and lackluster reviews since he took over the news network last year.
Leno would make an ideal addition to CNN, if only because he offers what even Piers Morgan sometimes struggles to achieve: a good interview. Guests have long singled out Leno’s desk to tell all, primarily because the senior comedian queries them in a friendly, non-threatening manner. Who knows what newsmakers he could attract if he were to headline a show on CNN?
Even more important, Leno could come with a strong and dedicated fan base. Season to date, Tonight is off to its biggest start 12 weeks into a new TV season in three years and continues to beat Jimmy Kimmel and David Letterman. He’s up 11 percent in 18-49 viewers (with 1.133 million vs. 1.025 million last season) and up 10 percent in total viewers (3.821 million vs. 3.465 million). Tonight has attracted bigger 18-49 audiences than Late Show for the last 56 weeks in a row and topped Kimmel for 45 of their 49 head-to-head weeks. In total viewers, Jay has out-delivered Late Show for 60 weeks in a row and Kimmel for 49 of 49 weeks.
Tonight, a certain Celebrity Apprentice-winning comedian will revive his early-’90s syndicated late-night talk show, The Arsenio Hall Show. Should we warm him up by asking him a few Stupid Questions? Hall, yes!
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: If the ’90s version of you time-traveled to the present to be a guest on your show, what’s the first thing you’d say to yourself, after all the fist-pumping and woof-woofing died down? ARSENIO HALL: “A lot less hair and shoulder pads, my friend!”
Bill Clinton played sax on your show in what would prove to be a historic politics-as-entertainment moment. Did you ever in your wildest dreams think that it would pave the way one day for Mike Huckabee to play bass on Leno?
No wonder I can’t book Paul McCartney. Somewhere right now he just threw up in his mouth a little. What a horrible road I’ve paved if that’s how it ended. Huckabee — oh, man. I’m surprised he didn’t wear stretch pants on Leno. Homey has no pocket. READ FULL STORY
Which late night host has such slippery floors that Melissa McCarthy “consider[s] it a victory” if she doesn’t fall? Which one did the Heat star once mistake for a lookalike? And who does McCarthy think was born to helm a network talk show?
Find out in this clip from the actress’s interview with Entertainment Weekly managing editor Jess Cagle, which aired this week on EW’s Sirius XM channel. Bonus: You’ll also get to hear a quick snippet of Jess’s ace Leno impression.
So he’s really leaving The Tonight Show. Now what? Will the top-rated late-night host really just… fade away? Or will Jay Leno pop-up again, in an 11:30 p.m slot somewhere, grinning and aw-shucking and saying, “Hello! Have you heard about this? You read about this? Yeah, I’m still here! Amazing! Thank you!”
A survey of late-night and broadcast TV insiders disagreed on Leno’s next step. Like, radically disagreed. But some opinions were more common than others. Here are some of Leno’s possible options:
Go to Fox: Less likely than you might think. Every time Fox has tried to launch a late-night show it’s been a mess. Despite an affiliate president recently breaking ranks to make it sound like his station group would be on board with clearing Leno, every major local market throughout the country would have to make a hole, preferably in the same time slot, and that’s very tough to do with all the various programming commitments in place. “They say they want it but then say, ‘But we have [a sitcom repeat] in that slot!’” one insider noted. Besides, Fox will face some of the same issues NBC had with Leno: He is not the future of late night, and Fox is not the kind of network that wants to invest in older-skewing programming. Noted one late-night insider: “Executives are always asking themselves: ‘How do I look if I make this decision?’ If you plunk down $100 million for a new Jay Leno show, it’s too risky and there’s nothing cool about it.”
Take over CBS’ Late Show if Letterman retires in 2014: Nobody thinks this will happen. Leno has been CBS’ competitor too long; it’s like Coke having a conjugal visit with Pepsi — it just feels wrong. Even if Dave retires (and most seem to think he’ll stay for one more round) CBS will opt for somebody younger to take over the franchise, like Stephen Colbert. Also, those familiar with Leno’s thinking insist — contrary to his online reputation — he’s not looking to try and rain on Fallon’s parade by doing a rival show (especially after all the negative press he garnered during the Conan O’Brien debacle three years ago).
If New York isn’t trying hard to lure The Tonight Show back to Manhattan, it’s doing a pretty good impression.
A Cuomo administration official said Thursday that New York is trying to lure TV shows from California with a proposed tax credit program and the Tonight show would qualify if it decides to move back to Manhattan. The show moved to Burbank in 1972 when Johnny Carson was host.
But there is no deal with NBC or the Tonight show, and the official wouldn’t say if the state is trying to attract the show. The person wasn’t authorized to comment on any potential deals and spoke to the Associated Press on the condition of anonymity.
Still, a bill in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s pending budget looks like it’s all about Tonight, without ever mentioning the iconic show that began broadcasting in the 1950s from Manhattan and has featured a series of popular hosts — Jack Parr, Steve Allen, Carson, and the current Jay Leno. READ FULL STORY
Reports that NBC is quietly planning to dump top-rated Jay Leno has some Hollywood insiders baffled.
Though NBC hasn’t officially announced any changes to its late-night lineup, multiple media outlets and sources suggest the network intends to replace the longtime Tonight Show host with Late Night‘s Jimmy Fallon by the end of next year. One common reaction among some broadcast and late-night veterans goes like this: NBC is the lowest-rated major broadcast network, yet Leno is the No. 1 late-night host. Fallon is currently averaging two-thirds of Leno’s 18-49 rating and half his viewership. Dumping Leno — especially within the next year — seems ill advised; like a man falling off a building who lights his hair on fire.
“I’m still trying to make sense of it,” says one late-night insider not affiliated with NBC. “I don’t understand it on many levels. I don’t understand why a network doing so badly looks at the one part that’s winning and says, ‘Let’s create chaos there.’ They already created a s–t storm at the Today show. Why would they want to create drama in late night?”
A couple insiders noted the move feels like NBC is making the same mistake as when its previous executive team gave Conan O’Brien The Tonight Show in 2009, then were forced to embarrassingly renege on the deal a year later after Leno’s short-lived 10 p.m. show failed. “Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it,” one broadcast insider says. While another network executive expressed the same idea more bluntly: “It’s so f–king hilarious that NBC won’t learn from its past experiences.” It should be pointed out, however, that Leno’s prime-time show had ratings that would now would be a blessing on some nights for NBC. READ FULL STORY
Jay Leno is shifting his target in his latest joke about the the dramatic recent Tonight Show transition headlines. Instead of poking fun at NBC’s ratings like the late-night host has done earlier this week, on Thursday night he took a shot at his own perilous position at the network.
“Are you all excited about March Madness?” he asked the Tonight audience at the taping earlier today. “Are you all into March Madness? People are talking about who’s in, who’s out, who’s gonna be eliminated. And that’s just here at NBC. I’ve never been in the paper this much. It’s fantastic.”
Leno and NBC have been besieged by reports that the network plans to replace the top-rated veteran host with Late Night host Jimmy Fallon by the end of next year.
You gotta hand it to Jay Leno; the dude’s got guts. On Tuesday’s installment of The Tonight Show, the late-night host took another swipe at NBC’s poor ratings — a day after he referred to the top execs as “snakes.”
“Did you hear about this? A 28-year-old woman from Serbia has a rare brain condition where she sees everything upside down,” Leno said in Tuesday’s monologue. “The good news? She’s now been given a job at the White House as President Obama’s economic adviser. Isn’t that crazy? It’s unbelievable. She sees everything upside down. In fact, she thinks NBC is at the top of the ratings.” READ FULL STORY
Jimmy Fallon might do what Conan O’Brien attempted to do back in 2010: Replace Jay Leno in the coveted Tonight Show seat.
According to a report by The Hollywood Reporter, NBC is planning to announce Leno’s retirement as soon as this May, with the change going in effect in time for the 2014 TV season. Leno’s replacement at 11:35, sources say, will almost surely be Jimmy Fallon, who’s been helming the 12:35 Late Night hour. NBC has denied the story, while a rep for Leno said “we do not speculate on rumor.”
Of course, we’ve heard this before. A few years back, Leno stepped down to give the spot to O’Brien — and we all know how that worked out. But the landscape has shifted since then — most notably thanks to the youthful Jimmy Kimmel Live, which ABC recently slated as The Tonight Show‘s direct competitor. Beyond that, whispers of Letterman’s retirement (his contract is up in 2014) have been turning into soft murmurs. A move by NBC to install Fallon in the 62-year old Leno’s spot would pit the two Jimmys against one another for the ever-important target demo.
What about you, reader — are you looking forward to a potential Jimmy vs. Jimmy late-night, or do you prefer your current Jay-Dave spectrum? Is there someone else you’d prefer to replace Jay? Or do you just opt for the Daily Show-Colbert Report hour anyway? Sound off in the comments!
That was quick: After pulling out of a planned 20/20 interview with Barbara Walters on Friday, Lindsay Lohan (and her new PR team) have already lined up what will likely be a more forgiving appearance to promote Liz & Dick. The actress will be a guest on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno on Tuesday, Nov. 20, EW has confirmed with NBC. Access Hollywood originally reported the news.
President Barack Obama will be sitting down with Jay Leno on the set of The Tonight Show Wednesday, less than two weeks before Election Day.
NBC says Wednesday night’s appearance will be Obama’s fifth on The Tonight Show, his third since he became president.
Obama has been making the late-night rounds as the presidential campaign has picked up steam. He was on CBS’ Late Show With David Letterman last month, and chatted with Jon Stewart on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show last week.
Mitt Romney has avoided the late-night talk shows since he became the Republican party’s presidential nominee. But his wife, Ann, did appear on The Tonight Show last month.