Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Late Night Wars, Part 3: This Time Jay Leno Is Out as NBC Sends Him a Message


Jay Leno has survived two late night wars. But this time, he can’t win. NBC let him know– via the excellent writer Kim Masters in The Hollywood Reporter–that his retirement is nigh. Leno will get a final year–I’m surprised he’s getting that long–and end his run on the Tonight show in May 2014. A month later, Jimmy Fallon will move into his slot at 11:35pm. It had to happen. Once ABC moved Jimmy Kimmel up to 11:35pm and replaced “Nightline,” the deal was done.

Leno, of course, survived the first war when Johnny Carson retired and NBC wanted David Letterman for The Tonight Show. That war was so crazy it became a book and an HBO movie. Then came the Conan O’Brien war, in which Conan was nearly killed and Leno moved to 10pm, almost died there, and then get to a reprieve back to Tonight.

But now the moment has come. Jimmy is great, and I enjoy watching him. But Fallon has the potential really to take over late night completely. He will certainly be a worthy competitor to Kimmel, who will have the advantage of 18 months in the time slot. Kimmel is also going to host the 2014 Oscars, which will give him a huge push.

Leno must be steaming, though. Instead of giving him a chance to say something or do something, NBC let the cat out of the bag. Masters’ piece was master-ful. It’s been picked up everywhere over the weekend. Jay–notably a great game player–has been outplayed by them. He can’t go back to 10pm doing specials. His next move will either be genius, or concession.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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