Leno’s NBC Era to End in Late May, Early June; Tune in Monday for Details

Jul 20, 2008  •  Post A Comment

NBC on Monday will announce the exact timetable for Jay Leno to hand over the host’s chair on “The Tonight Show” to Conan O’Brien, several people with knowledge of the plan said over the weekend.
It’s very likely Mr. Leno will host his final “Tonight Show” in late May or early June, according to two people familiar with the plan. Mr. O’Brien will take over on the Monday following Mr. Leno’s last broadcast.
The exact dates of the handover are being guarded like a state secret, since NBC brass don’t want to anger members of the media who have assembled in Beverly Hills for the Television Critics Association press tour, site of the expected announcement.
If NBC executives want to go the sentimental—or, perhaps, superstitious—route, Mr. Leno and Mr. O’Brien could duplicate the Carson-Leno playbook exactly.
Mr. Carson’s final “Tonight Show” aired on May 22, 1992; Mr. Leno took control of the franchise May 25. As it happens, May 22, 2009 falls on a Friday, while May 25, 2009 is a Monday.
The downside to that plan: May 25 is Memorial Day, and NBC might not want to kick off “The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien” on a holiday. If so, NBC might push Mr. O’Brien’s bow until Monday, June 1.
The transition to NBC’s new late-night lineup will actually begin this fall.
That’s when Jimmy Fallon—who’s been tapped to replace Mr. O’Brien as the host of NBC’s “Late Night”—will launch his show on the Internet as a series of webcasts. Executive producer Lorne Michaels announced the strategy Sunday, saying Mr. Fallon would webcast for “five or six months” before taking to the airwaves.
Mr. O’Brien is expected to host his final original episode of “Late Night” not long after the first of the year. He will take several months off the air in order to move his staff to Burbank.
NBC will air repeats of “Late Night” until the spring—most likely March, one NBC insider said—when Mr. Fallon is expected to take over at 12:37 a.m. NBC wants to give Mr. Fallon a moment in the spotlight before Mr. O’Brien takes over “Tonight.”
One person familiar with the transition plans said that while the dates of Mr. O’Brien’s first “Tonight” telecast and Mr. Leno’s final bow will be revealed Monday, the network may not yet be ready to announce an exact premiere date for Mr. Fallon.
(Editor: Baumann)


  1. Johnny Carson was the greatest natural host and Jack Parr was a close second.
    Jay leno in his own right was a talented host and I enjoyed his show.
    Conan O’Brien will have to change his methods to be as good as Jay Leno. However I wish him the best and will be watching his show.
    I will miss Jay Leno he had some great moments ie. his parody on George Bushhes last speech.

  2. Looking forward to the changeup. Leno has never impressed me as a talk show host. His opening jokes are stale and his interviews are rather bland. He used to joke around with a sexual overtone towards attractive female guests, which was sort of gross when they were especially young. Thankfully, he seemed to quit that a couple of years ago, guess he realized the age difference made it uncomfortable. Overall he’s amicable, but I think he really just appeals to the older conservative crowd who live in a world where jokes revolve around women being silly, men being pigs, and where insinuating someone is gay is funny and emasculating.
    I’ve watched Conan since close to when he first started. I was in high school/college then and his show was perfect for that crowd. We ate it up, as it was all about us. His nerdy persona, his awkward but cool attitude, even the occasional drug or partying reference gave us every reason to think Conan was talking to the 20 year olds everywhere. Well, that was 10+ years ago, and he’s still doing the same act. That’s gotta be rough for the 40 something year old man. With this move, conan can finally grow up, just a little.

  3. Let’s just see what happens if/when Leno goes head to head with Conan. Whether it’s ABC or syndication, I’ll take the bet on Leno. In a hot minute.

  4. My spouse and myself WILL be following Jay wherever he goes. Much, much better than Conan or Letterman. NBC is going to really suffer BUT they made their decisions and so the story goes. Jay Leno IS a fablous talk show host! Johnny Carson picked him over David Letterman so that should end the debate. Thankfully! Go Jay! We are with you entirely!

  5. They launched “The Tonight Show” with Jay Leno on May 25, 1992, which was in fact Memorial Day. So why would that be a problem for NBC now with Conan O’ Brien?

  6. Um … Carson didn’t choose Leno over Letterman. He fairly publicly preferred Letterman over Leno. NBC went for Leno.

  7. JAy you are the best you are the best last show on nbc

  8. Jay Leno is a class act. When Carson’s producers were looking for a guest host all the commedians demanded top dollar. Leno offered to do it for scale. Something like 350.00 per night. The same money guests are paid. I seem to remember that he acted as his own agent for quite a while. Maybe still does. Cuts his own deals with a handshake. He has always been paid less than Letterman but always beats him in ratings. Leno banks his television money and lives on his appearance fees. Jay is the kind of guy you’d like to have a beer with. Conan and Letterman and the rest, I don’t think so. What upsets me is that Leno always treated the network suits fairly. Didn’t grind them for the last buck and always did good work and made NBC truckloads of cash. Now they kick him to the curb. Bold prediction: Conan is going to turn out to be a male doofus version of Katie Couric. Wherever Leno lands, he’ll beat the other guys goin’ away.

  9. Leno was okay, some good laughs here & there. Conan is awesome, gotta love his energy & quirkiness. I think Conan will do fine, but it’s going to be interesting to see how Fallon does on Late Night.

  10. I think it’s a very unfair assumption that Conan will do poorly on The Tonight Show. Leno is okay, but I don’t really like him.
    Carson did not pick Leno over Letterman. Letterman really should be in that seat, not Jay nor Conan (although I’m sure he doesn’t want it anymore). I never hear folks stand up for Letterman anymore. I will always prefer Dave to Jay any day of the week. Jay is just so…lame. He’s like soggy bread. Conan will do great, he’s way better than Leno and yes, he’ll have an awkward transition period, but he took the failing “Late Night” and turned it around, no reason he can’t do the same on “Tonight.” Lost of people posting seem to be hanging onto a “history repeating itself” theme, so Conan will do fine, Jay will do fine wherever he lands and Dave will continue to do fine. What I find funny is how one person posted how little Jay works for, implying that makes him the better host/man/person. I just say it means he doesn’t need the money. So what? he should be revered for already being wealthy? I can’t imagine anyone posting here turning down a big fat payday, does that make them bad people? I don’t think so.

  11. I think this is a very BIG mistake. Jay Leno is a good host who is very personable with manners. Conan is so very silly, has absolutely no interviewing skills and appears to make his guest very uncomfortable. I can not watch him for over five minutes due to his silliness,very immature manner and total lack of class. I do not know what the network is thinking in getting rid of Jay and replacing him with such a non talented interviewer. Maybe the late night audience is just suppose to be for silly, immature people. If I were a celebrity I would not even want to appear on his show due to his immature ways. I know I certainly will not be watching the show once this change is made. I’m sure the executives are smarter than I am when it comes to their network, but this change is a mystery to me.

  12. I will follow Leno to ABC if that’s where he goes. Conan hasn’t been funny since Andy Richter left the show all those years ago.

  13. I will definitely follow Jay Leno wherever he goes … NBC has shot itself in the foot with this move. Leno has been getting the BIG late night ratings for years now; I’m sure that won’t change.

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