Jay Leno is no stranger to rumors of replacement. He knows how to handle them; he still has his job as host of The Tonight Show. In early March, The Hollywood Reporter reported that Jimmy Fallon would be taking over NBC's coveted 11:35 p.m. time-slot in 2014. NBC has denied the rumors, but is this finally going to be the one that holds up? Will Jay Leno be replaced by Jimmy Fallon?
Fallon seems a viable option to take over once Leno steps down, but if Leno isn't faltering, he should keep his show.
Leno and Fallon are not exactly answering questions about the rumors, but they aren't shying away from them, either. In their show's monologues Wednesday night, both hosts poked fun at the situation.
Fallon said, "Before we get started I have to talk about the rumors that came out today that we'll be moving up to 11:30, or as my parents call it, 'Eh, still too late.' Actually the rumors are true. NBC is turning The Tonight Show into a diving competition," referencing ABC's Splash.
Leno, meanwhile, didn't mention rumors, but spoke about the NBC network: "According to several reports — this is kind of scary — scientists say they’re getting closer and closer to being able to do Jurassic Park-style cloning of extinct species. Imagine that? Things once thought to be extinct can now be brought back from the dead ... So there’s hope for NBC. It could turn around."
Ratings are the reason that the reports coming from The Hollywood Reporter have gained such traction. Jimmy Kimmel's late-night show on ABC is pitted against Leno in the 11:35 p.m. time-slot. Leno is leading Kimmel and CBS counterpart Letterman in ratings, but Kimmel is competitive with Leno in the 18 to 49 age demographic.
Fallon has a great track record with a younger audience and his work with someone like Justin Timberlake is often lauded, but is replacing Leno in 2014 the right call? Some say, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Bryan Lowry at Variety says "Leno for life!"
Lowry has a point. The sources who spoke with The Hollywood Reporter mentioned ratings as the reason fro replacing Leno, but right now, Leno is winning the ratings game. Jimmy Fallon may be able to succeed in the 11:35 p.m. time-slot, but NBC shouldn't be taking a chance on an unproven commodity when it has a proven one. As a struggling network, they should be working their strengths, not trying to change them.