After 22 years of Headlines, that trademark snicker, and Kardashian jokes, Jay Leno, the very disputed king of late night, will step down from his position as host of NBC's iconic The Tonight Show next spring. Leno and NBC announced the news today via press release after weeks of speculation (and weeks of NBC denying it), confirming that Leno's time as the man who puts America to bed is nearing its end.
Taking over for Leno will be the current vice president of NBC's late-night lineup, Jimmy Fallon, host of the 12:30am Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Fallon has found success by embracing what the young kids call "the power of the internet," using short-form viral videos, memes, and Twitter to transform his late-night program into a fountain of shareable, easy-to-digest tidbits for those of us who have jobs and can't stay up late enough to watch him. (For more info, read this great article by my TV writer crush Laura Bennett on how Fallon has adapted.) Fallon's approach obviously appeals to NBC, who sees this style of late-night entertainment as the future, and in the face of ABC moving the hipper Jimmy Kimmel up to 11:35pm, probably thought, "the sooner the better."
There has been no announcement of who will replace Fallon as his follow-up, but expect something soon (SNL's Seth Meyers is the rumored frontrunner.)
Leno's departure will take place at the end of his current contract; NBC said, "We are purposefully making this change when Jay is #1, just as Jay replaced Johnny Carson when he was #1." But that's obviously B.S., because it's also time for both sides to move on. NBC and Leno have had a rocky relationship, and the good days the two shared are long gone, as evidenced by Leno's recent jabs at the network in his nightly monologue.
The thing I find most interesting here is that this should be huge news, but late-night television isn't as important as it used to be, at least in my house. I'd rather spend the hour catching up on my DVR's backlog or watching something on Adult Swim than hearing the today's news filtered through the brains of tired hacks who are desperate to pull out a punchline of any sort. So congratulations to Jimmy Fallon and farewell (or good riddance) to Jay Leno, but I'll be watching last week's Nashville instead. Call me when Louie gets a tryout.