(NEW YORK) — NBC is reportedly in the midst of working out a deal to move The Tonight Show to New York and replace Jay Leno with current Late Night host Jimmy Fallon.
The New York Times, citing several senior television executives, reports NBC has made a commitment to Fallon, and has begun work on a new studio at the network’s Rockefeller Plaza home in New York City.
The Times report says the switch is expected to take place by the fall of 2014.
Earlier this month, The Hollywood Reporter quoted “high-level industry sources” as saying NBC will likely announce in May that the 2013-14 television season will be Leno’s last as host of the late-night talk show. According to the trade paper’s sources, Fallon would move into the coveted 11:35 p.m. time slot with a soft launch in the summer of 2014.
The show, originally titled Tonight, was launched in New York in 1954 with Steve Allen as host. He was succeeded by Jack Paar and then Johnny Carson, who moved the show permanently to the West Coast in 1972.
An NBC spokesperson decline to comment on the reported move of the show other than to say the company was building a new state-of-the-art studio for Fallon.
Lorne Michaels, the man who auditioned Fallon for Saturday Night Live and picked him to host Late Night, which Michaels produces, recently said to GQ about Fallon’s taking over Tonight, “I’m not allowed to say it — yet. But I think there’s an inevitability to it. He’s the closest to Carson that I’ve seen of this generation.”
The Times reports Leno’s current contract expires in the fall of 2014.
Leno did not comment on the Times report during his monologue Wednesday night, but he did continue his practice of poking fun at NBC’s sagging ratings.
Leno joked, “This is kinda scary. Scientists say they are getting closer and closer to being able to do Jurassic Park style cloning of extinct species. Imagine that? Things that were once thought to be extinct could now be brought back from the dead. So there’s hope for NBC. It could turn around.”
Leno’s predecessors also frequently made jokes about NBC’s programming and ratings.
Fallon also didn’t comment on the report during his show, but he did joke about rumors he’ll be moving to an 11:30 time slot.
Fallon told the audience, “Actually the rumors are true, NBC is turning the show into a diving competition.”
The Times report triggers memories of the so-called “Late Night Wars” in the 1990s when NBC chose Leno to succeed Carson over the network’s then Late Night host, David Letterman. Letterman bolted to CBS.
Several years ago, NBC experienced more late night drama when it replaced Leno on The Tonight Show with then Late Night host Conan O’Brien. Leno went on to host the ill-fated primetime talk show The Jay Leno Show, but O’Brien later left the network in an acrimonious split and Leno returned as host of The Tonight Show in March 2010.
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