"NBC has settled on two new stars for ‘The Tonight Show': Jimmy Fallon and New York City," writes our good friend Bill Carter in The New York Times, adding, "The network has made a commitment to Mr. Fallon, the current host of its ‘Late Night’ program, for him to succeed Jay Leno as the next host of ‘Tonight,’ according to several senior television executives involved in the decision. As part of the agreement, the show would move from Burbank, Calif., back to New York, where it started in 1954 with Steve Allen as host."
Earlier yesterday Nellie Andreeva of Deadline.com also wrote about the impending move, and included this: "In an interview with GQ, ‘Late Night’ [and ‘SNL’] executive producer Lorne Michaels also hinted at the inevitability of Fallon’s anointment as new ‘Tonight’ host. ‘I’m not allowed to say it — yet,’ he said. ‘But I think there’s an inevitability to it,’ He added: ‘He’s the closest to [Johnny] Carson that I’ve seen of this generation.’"
Carter writes in his NY Times piece, "One senior executive who has been involved in the discussions said on Wednesday that ‘there is no way on earth that this is not going to happen.’"
Earlier this week, Howard Stern told his radio listeners that he was going to take over for Leno, EW.com’s Inside TV reported.
Carter also writes in his New York Times piece, "NBC has not completed a deal with Mr. Fallon yet, but his assent is considered mostly a formality, since the move would represent a significant step up for him. And the network has not settled on an exact timetable for the switch, though it is expected to take place by fall 2014 at the latest, said the executives, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because discussions were still continuing."
Andreeva noted that Leno’s contract ends in September 2014.
Carter adds: "The move to Mr. Fallon would be a significant cultural, and geographic, shift. Mr. Leno delivers a more traditional Las Vegas-style comedy act that is viewed as a link to previous hosts, including his immediate predecessor, Johnny Carson. Mr. Fallon, 38, offers a more contemporary and varied brand of entertainment, with a heavy reliance on the Internet. His best material gains additional life on sites like YouTube, and he actively courts interaction with his viewers by having them submit comedy ideas through Twitter."
And Fallon is a gifted mimic, who has had great fun imitating such popular singers as Neil Young.
Carter also writes, "Mr. Leno’s ‘Tonight’ show still regularly leads in the late-night ratings. But by turning to Mr. Fallon, NBC hopes to counter what it regards as its biggest late-night competitor of the future, Jimmy Kimmel, who in January moved his show on ABC from midnight to 11:35 p.m.
"Many TV executives speculated that NBC could not afford to wait too long to promote Mr. Fallon, or it might risk having Mr. Kimmel, 45, lock up the young-adult viewers who are the economic lifeblood of late-night television."
With Fallon as host, "The Tonight Show" will be returning to New York City. Carson moved the show to L.A. in 1972.
So Fallon will be going up against David Letterman every night for guests who are in New York. Kimmel remains in L.A., as do Conan O’Brien and Craig Ferguson, at least for now.