According to Variety and every other media outlet, including NBC, Leno may return to primetime. Yes, it’s on cable. Fortunately for Conan O’Brien, Leno’s potential new show will air on CNBC and will be about cars. Basically, CNBC has decided to ignore what could be considered its mission statement: to provide financial news. I guess they figure as long as they air Squawk Box no one’s going to mind Jay Leno’s car show after trading hours. (To be fair, CNBC has filled out their schedule with reruns of Late Night with Conan O’Brien in the past because a network wouldn’t last long if it only operated from 4am to 7pm.)
Wow. David Letterman announcing his upcoming retirement shocked me. It shouldn’t have. We all knew it was coming. No one was under the impression Letterman would be hosting The Late Show until he dies. He’d host it until Jay Leno was out of the collective consciousness or dropped dead. Once Leno said goodbye to The Tonight Show stage one last time, Letterman’s days were numbered. All he did today was confirm everyone’s assumption.
When all is said and done, Letterman will have hosted a late night talk show for 33 years: 11 as host of NBC’s Late Night, the last 22 will be with The Late Show and CBS. It’s hard to believe that 5 years ago few people expected Letterman to surpass his idol Johnny Carson’s reign in late night, which was an impressive 30 years. Now, we’re wondering how CBS will fill the hole in their lineup when Letterman leaves next year.
I’ve covered The Tonight Show a lot on Wait! What’s a Dial?. As the longest running late night talk show, it holds a special place in my heart. Regardless of what you think of Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien, those who came before them: Steve Allen, Jack Paar, and Johnny Carson were masters of the medium. Because Jimmy Fallon recently took over NBC’s signature late night talk show, here is a round up of the articles I have written about the hosts of The Tonight Show (with a video to make up for the lack of Jack Paar coverage).
If you’re over 30, you probably think of The Tonight Show as Johnny Carson’s show. However, Steve Allen was the first host of the show. He hosted it from 1954 to 1957.
As the first host of a national late night talk show, Steve Allen directly influenced David Letterman. Letterman has influenced Conan O’Brien, Jimmy Kimmel, and Jimmy Fallon, so some of Allen’s attitude and antics can still be seen on current late night talk shows. For the rest of the article, see “TV Shows You Should Know: The Tonight Show Starring Steve Allen.”
The Tonight Show fits Jimmy Fallon like a glove. It’s a perfect match that I wasn’t expecting. For me, Jimmy Fallon’s version of Late Night didn’t capture that show’s essence. During their times on Late Night, David Letterman and Conan O’Brien were the guys who came on after the show your dad watches. They were slightly edgy and a little left of the mainstream without completely alienating it. Jimmy swims in the middle of the mainstream and wholeheartedly embraces it. It wasn’t a good match for Late Night, but it’s exactly what The Tonight Show‘s about.
Unlike Dave and Conan, Jimmy was able to move his old show lock, stock, and barrel an hour earlier. There was no changing to appease middle America, but he acts enough like an overgrown frat boy to appeal to the college crowd. If Jay Leno is vanilla, Jimmy is vanilla with sprinkles. He’s inoffensive fun. Parents won’t have a problem having their kids stay up late Friday nights watching The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, whereas they shudder at the thought of a certain self-pleasuring recurring character from Conan.
Let’s get this out of the way, I’m a Conan O’Brien and David Letterman fan. For all intents and purposes, the media tells me I should despise Jay Leno. I don’t. He’s not my favorite comedian. I find what he did to David Letterman distasteful, but it’s been over 20 years and the two men now talk to each other again. I also think he should have left NBC after they handed The Tonight Show to Conan. However, things get nasty when two people are battling over their dream job. For years ago Jay came out looking bad, yet so did Conan. The real loser was NBC.
Instead of hating Jay, I understand that he’s vanilla. Something bland that the remains of an aging mainstream America falls asleep watching. I am not his target audience. In spite of it all, I watched the last Tonight Show with Jay Leno expecting something more than a typical show. Unfortunately, I was disappointed. NBC’s making a big deal about the changing of the guard at The Tonight Show, but Jay went out with a whimper. It was an average show that focuses more on the past than normal, which is saying something for a show hosted by a guy still making Monica Lewinsky jokes in 2001.
For some reason, NBC insists Jimmy Fallon is the new Johnny Carson. In order to make those beliefs clearer, the Peacock Network will change the “with” in The Tonight Show With Jay Leno to “starring” for Jimmy Fallon’s tenure, which conjures up images of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. Obviously, Jay Leno’s name will no longer be in the show’s title.
It may seem like an argument over semantics, but NBC changing “with” to “starring” is a big deal because it is symbolic. Bringing “starring” back into The Tonight Show title makes it seem like NBC wants to get away from Jay Leno’s tenure and Conan O’Brien’s already forgotten time as host. However, the network cannot relive the past. In fact, there are several reasons why a show starring Jimmy Fallon is a bad idea.
Each week we bring you stories from around the Internet that you might have missed.
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Khloe Kardashian may become the next host of The X Factor.
It’s no secret that Jimmy Kimmel hates Jay Leno. Kimmel takes every opportunity he gets to crack jokes about Leno, which surely will not change now that Kimmel will be in direct competition with the Tonight Show. Since Kimmel has been talking about Leno a lot lately, let’s take a look at Jimmy Kimmel on The Jay Leno Show segment “10 at 10”.
Starting in January, ABC will push Nightline back an hour, so that Jimmy Kimmel Live can be a direct competitor to the Tonight Show with Jay Leno and The Late Show with David Letterman. This does not make sense. ABC already wins the 11:35pm late night ratings race against Leno and Letterman with Nightline, which averages 3.8 million viewers. However, ABC loses the ratings race a half hour later because Kimmel averages 1.8 million viewers to Leno’s 3.71 million viewers and Letterman’s 3.22 million viewers. Kimmel also receives the fewest number of viewers among the 3 hosts in the coveted 19-49 demographic.