Now that Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon are representing a new generation in late night, what happens next? David Letterman’s contract with CBS ends in 2014, same as Leno. And while we all love Dave and can’t imagine life without him and Paul Shaffer. But all good things come to an end. And given Dave’s age–and the drive for a youthful look–Letterman’s time may be coming to an end.
A TV insider points out that Jon Stewart, the long time host of “The Daily Show” on Comedy Central, is more than ready for his close up. There was some suggestion last week that Stephen Colbert might be a Letterman successor. But Stewart launched Colbert, is senior to him, and in line first certainly for Letterman’s seat. Also of note: Comedy Central is owned by Viacom, which also owns CBS. and Stewart’s contract is with Viacom, which bought out AOL Time Warner’s half of Comedy Central in 2009.
Stewart may well be aware that something is in the air for him. He’s planning on taking a 12 week break this summer to direct his first feature film. This will give Comedy Central a chance to find a replacement for him, and design a farewell to Stewart with an easy transition.
Age is also an issue. Stewart is 50 years old, which would make him a decade older than Fallon and Kimmel. But he’s also 15 years younger than Letterman and a dozen years younger than Leno. And at 50, he’s more than ready for his shining moment on the big network. He would bring the considerable “The Daily Show” audience with him, plus the allegiance of many celebrities who adore him. Imagine a three way network contest in September 2014 of Stewart-Fallon-Kimmel. Audiences will get no sleep!
If Letterman can make it to September 2014, of which there is no doubt, he will have beaten Leno as a late night host. And unlike Leno, who will make a deal with someone else almost immediately, Letterman can take his time, do what I’d call a “Seinfeld,” and wait for the next right opportunity.
What’s clear is that no one is safe as we watch a generational change in talk show hosts.