.In the world of late-night television, if a network says, “jump,” talk show hosts usually say, “how high?” Such is the case at “The Tonight Show” where NBC Universal has manipulated the careers of three well-known hosts for the sake of projected ratings since 2009.
Most recently, NBC forced Jay Leno, host of “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” to retire early and surrender his seat to Jimmy Fallon who is scheduled to begin hosting “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” on Feb. 17. Leno’s last show was Feb. 6. The move has been the subject of considerable discussion among TV pundits, and shadows a similar action made by NBC a few years earlier. It also appears to be quite popular among SSU students.
“It’s time for Leno to go to greener pastures,” said sophomore Anna Leach. “I like Jimmy Fallon. He can relate to the younger and older generations. I think his experience on SNL [Saturday Night Live] has helped his comedy [as well as] his ability to interview people and not be boring. He’s musically talented, funny and can act.”
In 2004, NBC announced that Conan O’Brien would replace Leno in 2009. NBC eventually signed Leno to host a one-hour program at 10 p.m., “The Jay Leno Show,” to be followed by local news and “The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien” at 11:35 p.m. O’Brien’s first show aired June 1, 2009.
The maneuver was a dismal failure with both programs losing considerable ratings to the competition through January 2010. NBC’s solution?
In January 2010, the network announced that Leno would host a half-hour show starting at 11:35 p.m. O’Brien would be given the option to begin his show at 12:05 a.m. or leave NBC. O’Brien declined the offer and Leno was quickly rehired to host “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” at the program’s traditional start time of 11:35 p.m. O’Brien accepted a $33 million buyout and began hosting “Conan” on the TBS cable channel in November 2010. His final NBC show aired Jan. 22, 2010.
“I believe that delaying ‘The Tonight Show’ into the next day to accommodate another comedy program will seriously damage what I consider to be the greatest franchise in the history of broadcasting,” said O’Brien in a statement release Jan. 12, 2010. “‘The Tonight Show’ at 12:05 simply isn’t ‘The Tonight Show.’”
Leno believes Fallon is the right man for the job at this juncture.
“I really like Jimmy Fallon; I think he’s terrific,” said Leno in a “60 Minutes” segment that aired Jan. 27. “When I see him do a dance number with Justin Timberlake, I think, ‘I can’t do that.’”
Some SSU students appreciate Leno and Fallon, and believe age had a lot to do with NBC’s decision.
“I sometimes watch Jay Leno and Jimmy Fallon,” said Rachel Folmer, a senior. “I feel they [NBC] pulled an ageist situation on Leno. I saw a ‘60 Minutes’ interview of him, and he said they basically told him, ‘you’re too old to do this.’ … It seems like everybody knows Jimmy Fallon from ‘Saturday Night Live.’ He’s a great replacement.”
“I periodically watch Leno, but not Fallon,” said freshman Erica Kallestad. “I loved his ‘Headlines’ segment with the newspaper clippings. … I might watch Jimmy Fallon now that it’s on. They [NBC] could have handled it a little better, but I don’t see much controversy in it.”
“I watch Jimmy Fallon sometimes,” said senior Danielle Dorman. “Just to see him in a different light and interacting with different co-hosts is always fun. He has such a great personality and can hold a conversation with his interviewees.”
“I think Jay Leno is funny too. Older people need better representation in the media because they are the majority of the population. We are forgetting that over half the population would rather listen to Jay Leno,” said Dorman.
While many experts and viewers are focusing on the past and present, at least one SSU student is looking to the future.
“I think Fallon will be successful if he keeps his show exactly like it is,” said junior Brendan Byrne. “If he tries to make it like Jay Leno, then I don’t think it will work.”
“The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” will premiere Feb. 17 at 11:30 p.m. on NBC.