Jay Leno finally retiring, handing ‘Tonight’ to Jimmy Fallon: too little, too late?

I’ve been steering clear of the latest Tonight Show kerfuffle, mostly because I didn’t care about Jay Leno at all. For what’s it worth, I didn’t really think that Leno would be leaving (and I hear he was being a big baby about everything), but he finally (at long last!) announced his departure from The Tonight Show, effective spring 2014. So, he’s got another year to screw around and dither and NBC still has a year to f—k this up royally, which I’m sure they will. Somebody will panic and they’ll offer Leno another crazy lucrative contract because the old white men who control network television are afraid of Jimmy Fallon’s youth, vitality and the fact that Fallon might actually make The Tonight Show hip and interesting. And that can’t happen!

This is no song and dance – like he did with Jimmy Fallon earlier this week. Jay Leno, 62, is retiring from his 22-year job hosting NBC’s Tonight Show, the network officially announced Wednesday.

NBC also said he will be succeeded, as expected, by Jimmy Fallon, 38, once Leno finishes out his contract in spring 2014. The show will also return to New York’s 30 Rock. Johnny Carson had moved the show, which first premiered in 1954 (from Manhattan), west in 1972.

“Congratulations, Jimmy. I hope you’re as lucky as me and hold on to the job until you’re the old guy,” Leno said in a statement released by NBC. “If you need me, I’ll be at the garage.” (Leno has an enviable classic car collection.)

Responded Fallon: “I’m really excited to host a show that starts today instead of tomorrow.”

“Jay Leno is an entertainment icon, making millions of people laugh every weeknight for more than 20 years,” Steve Burke, CEO of NBC Universal, said in a statement. “His long reign as the highest-rated late-night host is a testament to his work ethic and dedication to his viewers and to NBC.”

[From People]

I’m glad they’re moving it back to New York. At least Fallon won’t have to move, which is what happened to Conan O’Brien, that poor bastard. As I said, don’t get too excited – even though this seems like a super-official announcement, NBC will figure out a way to screw it up somehow. Like, they’ll make Adam Levine and Blake Shelton co-host with Fallon because The Voice is super-popular, right? That’s how network executives think.

Can I just rant a little bit? When I was growing up, NBC was THE network. They had the best programming, Today was the centerpiece morning show and The Tonight Show was still vaguely relevant. Where did it all go wrong? Don’t even say “the internet” or “cable” – most of NBC’s problems are self-made, because they hang their programming centerpieces on deeply flawed and somewhat unlikeable personalities like Matt Lauer and Jay Leno. Dateline is a total mess, veering from hard-news magazine pieces (like 60 Minutes lite) to crazy detailed stories about “real life” crime stories that are best left to Nancy Grace. NBC has pretty much abandoned hour-long dramas and – save for a handful of small, critically acclaimed shows which are barely shown any support – the sitcom situation at NBC is DIRE. Nowadays, the only sitcoms worth watching are on Fox and ABC. Truly. Dumping Leno is not the solution to the larger problems facing NBC, but it’s a half-decent start. I hope they stick with it.

Photos courtesy of Fame/Flynet and WENN.

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61 Responses to “Jay Leno finally retiring, handing ‘Tonight’ to Jimmy Fallon: too little, too late?”

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  1. Lb says:

    I really like Fallon but I don’t think he’s earned that spot yet if that makes sense. Maybe I’m still feeling sorry for Conan and thinking it belonged to him (though he did come off well from the whole thing and gave my favorite goodbye speech as he was leaving the Tonight Show). I need to get over that lol.

    Anyway good luck to Fallon. I hope the Roots are coming along with him. They’re awesome.

    • minime says:


      That’s exactely what I feel about this all story.
      I think Fallon is pretty OK, but there is no one like Conan!

    • bluhare says:

      Yeah, I hope he keeps The Roots too. I think he’ll do great, and I think Jay bought too much into his ego a long time ago. He used to be funny and edgier, now it’s all about him.

      I’ll never forgive him for the Conana fiasco.

  2. gee says:

    I’ll always dislike him for what he did to Conan. I do like Jimmy Fallon though.

  3. Cam S says:

    He is retiring again?

  4. Faye says:

    I know this is an unpopular opinion, and I’m not even a fan of Leno (don’t watch any late-night shows), but I don’t get the hate for him at all. He’s not some Kim Jong-Eun like dictator who held a gun or nuclear weapon to the heads of NBC and forced them to sign him to a contract. They gave him a job, he got paid a lot to do it, so not unnaturally he wanted to keep on doing it. And I don’t know what his ratings were, but presumably a fair amount of people were watching, or they wouldn’t have kept him on. Why should he give up the job to make way for someone else – what is he, Schweitzer? Would any of you give up your jobs if there was a group of people who thought a younger, “cooler,” person should do it?

    • Jess says:

      But he agreed to retire, then tried to back-track after it was too late, then wrangled a new show that stole the attention away from Tonight.

      If he didn’t want to retire, he should have just said that when the issue first came up. Does anyone really think he wanted to give himself any sort of deadline for handover? I suspect he agreed because he could negotiate an even bigger salary when NBC execs thought he’d be gone before long. Maybe he assumed Conan would get sick of waiting or that the execs would panic and do all his dirty work for him.

      • Faye says:

        People do change their minds about retiring – I’ve seen it at work here. And the point is, nobody forced NBC to re-hire him. And nobody forced all those people who chose to watch his new show instead of Conan. Conan’s playing the victim was just ridiculous. If he was so wonderful, everyone would have watched him, nobody would have watched Leno, and Conan would still have stayed on.

      • Anne says:

        I respectfully disagree. I do not really like any of these guys, they all seem to be the stereotypical comics – bitter mean vindictive men. With that said, the problem started when NBC agreed to Conan threats, Jay did not really have a choice, a new contract or extension was NOT on the table. He was offered a new show and time slot when NBC realized their error that Conan does not have what it takes (he has a niche market – much later night demographic – for now … that may slowly change as the population ages or not). Jay left and the ratings showed what the public wanted. I like Fallon, better choice for 11:30 network show.

      • Jess says:

        He could have just not signed the contract he was given, and demanded a longer contract. I think people are underestimating how much power Leno had at the time. NBC wanted to put Conan in the hot seat eventually, but they sure as hell weren’t ready to do that at the time, and Conan wasn’t ready yet either. If Leno had of had the balls to say ‘I’m not retiring on your schedule so bring me a new contract or I’ll walk’, he would have had them. Instead he just went along with it hoping someone else would put a stop to it.

        At the very least, he could have given Conan a year to settle in on Tonight before he came back with another show. He could have had a break and his audience would have still been there when he came back, only Conan would have had a chance to cultivate a new, fresher audience.

      • AmyLynne says:

        @ Faye: It’s not that people were watching Jay Leno’s show instead of Conan’s, they weren’t on at the same time. People were watching Jay Leno, realizing that he was phoning it in so he wasn’t funny and he sucked, and they changed the channel or didn’t watch again after that, so affiliates freaked out and threatened to stop airing the show. Sine Leno’s new show was the lead-in for Conan, that potential built in audience was removed. It wasn’t a Leno-instead-of-Conan thing.

        @ Anne: NBC offered Conan ‘Tonight’ because they didn’t want him going anywhere else. He would have, and he would have been better off instead of having to deal with this whole mess. But NBC jumped the gun and kept him, doing an unheard of thing in television and giving Leno a hard end-date. The fact that Conan didn’t want to wait around forever and Leno didn’t want to be forced to retire are both understandable, but Leno wasn’t given his show AFTER NBC “realized that Conan didn’t have what it takes”. NBC had to get him to say yes to this whole thing to begin with (which, he did before they even approached Conan about it). No one forced him to take the new show. He could have said no and moved on with his life like everyone is saying NBC “wouldn’t let him do”. But he wanted it, which is fine, and he took it and he asked for a pay-and-play contract, which is also pretty rare.

    • SimKin says:


      People are upset with Jay Leno because he didn’t take his forced retirement laying down last time? Who the hell would be happy with forced retirement when they still liked their job?

      NBC took the “Tonight Show” away from him and instead of letting him leave and move on with his life they tried to keep him around, when that didn’t work out they panicked and tried to and created a bigger mess. However, there was never anything done to Conan by Jay Leno. He didn’t force NBC to kick Conan out and again NBC still had the power to just let Jay go and move on with his life.

      People seem to be blind to the fact that they are essentially advocating that a person should just give up something they love so that another person could do the job. No one would expect a person to do that in the real world and Jay shouldn’t be expected to do that either. It’s not like he willingly retired and then pulled a Brett Favre move on them, he let them know that he liked what he was doing and if NBC didn’t want him then he would move on.

      The only people responsible for the Conan/Leno mess is NBC.

    • Carol says:

      ITA, Faye. I always find myself asking whether Conan saved Jay’s life during the war or donated a kidney to Jay, and somehow I missed it. I will never understand why everyone seems to think Conan was somehow “owed” the show or was “betrayed” by Jay. Conan got the network to oust Jay, and it backfired. That happens. Somehow Conan managed to spin it that he was the victim of a mean network who had just paid him tens of millions of dollars and a mean guy whom he just got fired. Somehow Jay “stole” the show back. Conan’s sob story was ridiculous then and it goes more silly each time it’s repeated.

      For the record, I watch Jon Stewart when I watch late night stuff, and I don’t often catch him.

      • AmyLynne says:

        Conan was owed the show because it was promised to him five years before he got it. It backfired because Jay became Conan’s lead in and people weren’t watching or stopped watching Jay, taking away the lead-in audience, which accounts for more than you think.

    • Addison says:

      Agreed, NBC is responsable for the mess. They panicked because the ratings went down. So after forcing Leno to leave they asked him back. Jay has a lot of people that rely on him to work.

      I don’t like Conan. He only has a funny face, that is all. His jokes are Meh. Oh and yeah when Conan moved to TBS is it, George Lopez got pushed out by him. He did THE SAME THING that was done to him!

    • TheOriginalKitten says:

      If you don’t know why people hate Jay Leno (and I’m not just talking about the public, I’m talking about people within the industry) then you should google “Jay Leno steals jokes”. People hated him WELL before the Conan debacle-he’s always had a pretty terrible reputation of being an uninspired dude who basically built a career on stealing jokes from other comedians while taking all the credit.

      Personally, I think Jay Leno is talentless, unfunny and kind of a d*ckbag. Again, just my opinion.

      Otherwise, I agree that NBC should be held responsible for the Conan/Leno mess, but that doesn’t make me hate Jay any less.

      • Kevin says:

        Excellent T.O.K! Jay never deserved the job after Johnny retired. His 20 years have been pure shit. He should have been fired 2 to 3 years in. You don’t replace a legend with that garbage and not change the name of the show. Yeah, I hate Jay.

    • Risda says:

      Yes!!! Thank you! One of the things I’d like to add is that by Jay keeping the show, it didn’t just mean his job, but all of his staff’s jobs.

      When Conan took over he moved his whole staff to LA and that meant Jay’s whole staff would have been fired. Jay cares about his staff. Jay has taken pay cuts since then to keep his staff fully employed when the network wanted to slash the staff in half after he took over the show again. Very convenient that no one ever emphasizes that about Jay.

      Conan got paid millions of dollars in penalty clause fees to Eff off after his show bombed. Jay’s show also bombed but he had a bigger penalty clause and the network fired Conan because it was cheaper.

      The reason Jay is being fired is because while he is number one in late night NBC ratings are the lowest they’ve ever been in primetime and Jay made a few jokes at the network’s expense. This is payback. NBC just fired the number one host in late night and the entire staff with it. This is why the network is going nowhere fast. They have the today show mess, they have no primetime line up. They’ll be lucky if they’re still on the air in the next five years.

      AmyLynne–yeah but Jay’s show ended at 10:30 pm and TTS started at 11:35–with news in between. It means something but at the same time I watch Letterman and do not watch prime time on CBS or the news. If Conan could hold the the show on his own he would have. That is what it means to host the Tonight Show. Jay has no lead in and he’s number one. This is a story about network juggling and paranoia. They wanted to keep both hosts, just like with Dave. This has everything to do with ineffectual programmers at NBC and there are dozens of stories about their BS in primetime. I feel bad for Jimmy because I don’t think this will end well for him. It would have been better if he had walked and taken the FOX show up for grabs. NBC is a sinking ship and Jay is probably glad he’s finally off it.

      • AmyLynne says:

        Rsida- Well, what it means to host ‘Tonight’ it to be actually allowed to host ‘Tonight’, which NBC wasn’t willing to let Conan do on his terms because they were afraid of losing Jay’s audience, which they already did by moving Jay. So yes–poor programming and paranoia. I also agree that I don’t think it’s going to end well for Jimmy Fallon, but I hope he’s allowed to do the show the way he wants and they don’t pull the plug on him.

        Jay Leno was 10-11 pm, it was an hour long. Yes, the news was in between, but if people weren’t sticking around for the news (and they weren’t), they weren’t sticking around for Conan. Watching Letterman without watching the news isn’t necessarily the same as watching Conan without watching the news. Letterman on his show is established. Conan on ‘Tonight’ was not. Like people are saying for Jimmy Fallon, 11:35 is a different game than 12:35 and pushing Jay Leno to 10 (which was basically Jay Leno doing TTS With Jay Leno at 10 instead of 11:35) is undermining and it was a mistake no one is surprised NBC made.

        It was just a mess and I hope it goes better this time around, but I have a bad feeling because it’s NBC.

    • bluhare says:

      I don’t hate him either, but he signed a contract, his show didn’t do as well as he thought, and got Conan fired.

      End of story.

  5. Jess says:

    RE: Sitcoms, the brilliant Parks and Rec is on NBC, Go On isn’t bad (which means NBC will probably cancel it…). and of course until they dumped Dan Harmon Community was killing it.

    • Chrissy says:

      Gosh, I love Parks and Recreation. I just needed to say that. Lol

    • bea says:

      Parks & Rec is by far the best show on “regular” television right now (it was #2 until 30 Rock ended).

      So they’ll prob. cancel it soon.

    • ChiTown says:

      Love, love, love Parks and Rec but NBC is also screwing that up. Have you noticed that they keep changing the order of shows around on Thursday nights? Every week I check now to see if it’s on, what time it will be on, and if it will be new. It’s really hard to get higher ratings when no one knows when your shows will be on. I’m sure they think people will tune in and see the crappy-looking new shows and just watch them without thinking but it’s 2013, there are plenty of other things to watch and ways to watch them.

  6. marie says:

    Is he going to wait a few weeks and then steal it back? I’m a fan of Fallon and would hate for him to be screwed over. Leno is a jerk, I watch Conan instead.

  7. Dana M says:

    I favor Conan too . I still can’t get over what the network did to Conan. I do like Fallon though.

  8. anneesezz says:

    Jimmy Fallon is great. I will forever love him for guest starring on iCarly. Tina Fey too. She probably did it for her daughter.

  9. Kim says:

    Team Fallon I can’t stand Conan.

  10. Inconceivable! says:

    I still feel it should be Conan’s show. NBC likes to use the excuse of low ratings? Then Fallon better hope his ratings are sky high or else NBC will have no reason to claim he deserves the job over Conan. NBC royally screwed Conan and I’m still bitter.

    • bluhare says:

      I agree with you, but Conan’s got a contract wit TBS (TNT?), desn’t he?

    • april says:

      Totally agree. I wish Conan could have stayed on NBC. I like Fallon but I don’t think he’s ready. Actually I like the way it is now with Leno and then Fallon. So who gets Fallon’s late night spot?

  11. Lucy2 says:

    I feel like I’ve heard this story before…good luck Jimmy, better hope he doesn’t change his mind again.
    I like Jimmy but he doesn’t seem as ready as Conan did, after all those years on Late Night.

    Please don’t ever show the Leno chest photo again. Please.

  12. Jag says:

    They should’ve gone with Craig Ferguson in the first place because he’s the funniest of them all, imo. Agreed that NBC or Leno will mess something up before next year.

  13. E says:

    Love Jimmy (though I didn’t want to at first… But his show is so wacky & the Roots are amazingggg)… Used to love Conan but whenever I watch now- not funny. Jay Leno- not funny, interviews seem like he’s sleepwalking… The only late night shows I care about are Jimmy Fallon & Late Night with Carson Daly. Carson Daly needs to be on earlier. He has the absolute BEST late night show (late late late night, I guess). Also, not to sound like a pretentious bitch, but there are literally zero dramas or sitcoms I care about on the major networks (EXCEPT bob’s burgers on fox- SO GREAT!!). I’ve tried them all and just don’t like them. I’ll take Louie or Nathan for You or Mad Men or even Adventure Time over all of the crap on NBC & ABC. I don’t know. None of it resonates with me. :/

  14. Kris says:

    Say what you will about NBC (most of it really has gone to hell) but don’t you DARE say anything about my Dateline! Did you see it last night? Hoda was reporting!! I love Hoda and I love the “real life” mysteries b/c even though it sounds like it came straight out of Lifetime, that shit really does happen!

    • TheOriginalKitten says:

      SAW IT. The chick who took up with a teenager and convinced him to murder her husband?
      That’s TV gold right there.

      I’m a Dateline addict-it’s a serious problem.

  15. TheOriginalKitten says:

    I’m a Conan girl but Jimmy Fallon is like the anti-Leno. Fallon is supposedly one of the nicest, most down-to-earth guys in Hollywood plus he has a cute and goofy charm that I dig.

    See ya later, Leno, never could stand your show.

  16. bea says:

    ITA with your rant. NBC USED to be great. It’s obvs that there are some huge egos there and it’s destroying their ability to make good choices for the network. I mean, just look at what they did to Community.

    Jay Leno has ZERO charisma. He’s not funny and he panders to the stoopid. Unfortunately, I don’t think Jimmy Fallon is any better. His appeal is completely lost to me. Conan is the true genius, but he’s just too smart and strange for the masses.

  17. Lucy2 says:

    Wanted to also add love for Parks & Rec, it’s hilarious but also very sweet and a definite feel good show.
    Parenthood is also great too, but not much else will be left after this season. I will miss 30 Rock!

    • EmmaStoneWannabe says:

      Props to them for Parenthood! That’s all I watch on that network…Loved NBC in the 90s, ER was the best.

  18. Feebee says:

    Oh so now he’s happy to retire. Good on ya. What a cock up from start to finish. At least they learnt from the Conan debacle. They’re not giving him another show and they’re moving Tonight back to NYC. The NBC bosses obviously don’t even trust themselves, they have to make it impossible to go back.

    I’m still peeved at what they did to Conan and that includes Jay Leno. Whether he was right for the Tonight Show is irrelevant but they basically tanked him. He may have gone to ABC… if he had then Jimmy Kimmel wouldn’t have his current timeslot and then maybe the NBC guys wouldn’t have thought they needed to put Fallon in to compete for the youth demo. How ironic.

  19. Keats says:

    teamcoco 4evs.

  20. Holly Hobby says:

    If you want to read about the NBC golden years and it’s slow and painful descent into TV oblivion, check out Warren Littlefield’s book. WL was the president of the entertainment division during the 80s/90s when he was unceremoniously dumped for Jeff Zucker. Jeff tanked the whole prime time schedule by failing to find back ups for shows that were near its shelf life (Friends, Seinfeld ER etc). Jeff was also responsible for the Leno at primetime debacle as well as the Conan issue.

    Warren’s theory as to why NBC is failing is because the people who are running it has no TV background. GE was the majority shareholder and they filled the front office with corporate bottom line suits.

    Now that cable carrier Comcast owns NBC, I don’t expect it to get better. If anyone has the misfortune of having Comcast as their cable provider, you would know what I mean. A bunch of nitwits.

    • Alecia says:

      I read that book too and he made excellent points. I think that is NBC’s problem- too many non- TV people running the show. I think the reason ABC, CBS, and now even Fox are ahead is because they still have people with TV knowledge and experience running the show.
      You’re totally right though Kaiser, Matt Lauer and Jay Leno are two huge reasons I don’t watch NBC and I also agree about Dateline. If I hear another one of those crime stories I will scream. It’s fine if I’m watching ID but not Dateline, give us something to look forward to.

  21. TheOneAndOnly says:

    The one good thing i’ll say about both is that they don’t have pop stars as the music guests – their music acts include everything from Fitz and the tantrums, esperanza spalding, Dr. John to Coheed and Cambria, the Goo Goo dolls and recently Buddy Guy, Billy Cox and the Jimi Hendrix experience. Pop stars generally aren’t featured.
    BTW, have to say in the first pic Leno looks like some tobacco Road farmer, not a Hollywood celeb.

  22. KellyinSeattle says:

    Craig Fergusen all the way! I just saw an old clip of Jay with Johnny Carson…I have to admit I find him kind of cool.

  23. Maddict says:

    Anyone who thinks Jay Leno is deserving of anything should read or watch the hbo docu drama The Late Shift. It portrays Jay Leno as a petty, ambitious, and ruthless; and as having forced Carson’s premature retirement. Conan didn’t have a chance. I’m glad he’ll be gone – good riddance. Good luck Jimmy Fallon you’ll need it with NBC.

  24. Oyn says:

    Jay is only 62.Too late? NBC owes him a lot.

  25. Me says:

    I think Jimmy’s going to need all the luck in the world. People can say all they want about Leno but there’s a reason why he is STILL the highest rated late night talk show. I’ll never know what that reason is because for the life of me, I’ve never been able to figure out what it is about his show that draws that viewership but I’m not going to act like he hasn’t been the most successful late night talk show host in the past 20 years. I always find it funny how Letterman, Kimmel and Conan publicly hate on him on their own shows yet he keeps slaying them in the ratings. They’ll even go on each others shows and talk crap about him. And he keeps kicking their behinds in the ratings. Say what you want about the man but you can’t deny that he is the king of late night talk. Maybe instead of the other guys bitching about HIM, they should figure out how to improve their own shows to get the ratings they’re so obviously jealous of. I personally prefer Letterman and I think Kimmel is funny but I can’t stand it when they go on and on about Leno. It just makes them seem bitter as all get out. People like Leno because he doesn’t harp on the negative. I guess you don’t need to when you’re on top.

  26. Ranunculus says:

    Sorry Jimmy Fallon is completely unfunny. No way will he be able to hold that spot.

    If NBC wants to oust Leno they should at least replace him with somebody who is sharp and edgy. Craig Ferguson would be a great replacement.

    Fallon is just lame and low brow.

  27. Beatriz says:

    Jay is an ass, I prefer Letterman and Ferguson.