Jimmy Fallon says his Tonight Show will be “the same show” as he’s doing now as Late Night. “I’m not going to change anything,” Fallon said while visiting the NBC station in the Orlando market. “It’s more eyeballs watching but it’s the same show.” On the other hand, Fallon also told the TV critic for the Orlando Sentinel that what triggered the Tonight show hand-off to him (scheduled for February to coincide with the 2014 Winter Olympics) was a call he got from Jay Leno saying, “I think I’m ready.” NBC, however, tells it diferently. NBC told Wall Street Journal in September 2012 there was no date for Leno’s exit, then, after vigorously denying March press reports NBC planned to replace Leno with Fallon, and after announcing in May that Leno would leave Tonight the week leading up to to the Winter Olympics and Fallon would take over shortly thereafter, this past July NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt acknowledged discussions about moving Jay out had begun as soon as Greenblatt joined NBC in January 2011. That puts it about 10 months after Jay returned to the Tonight hosting gig, after Conan O’Brien flamed out in the late-night ratings (and Leno in his primetime strip), and local NBC stations complained.
Fallon is quoted in the Sentinel as saying, “As soon as I got Late Night, I called Jay and said, ‘I want to let you know I want to start on the right foot. I respect you.’ I’ve been a guest on the show numerous times. I said, ‘I’m not gunning for your job. I’m not trying to plot anything. Whenever you’re ready to step down, let me know. But I’m happy at 12:30.’ ” But wait, when Fallon got Late Night, Leno didn’t have a job for Fallon to gun for at NBC. Fallon was announced as the guy who would replace O’Brien on Late Night in May 2008, and he officially debuted in March 2009. NBC had announced back in 2004 that Leno would be stepping down from Tonight in 2009; he left on May 29 of that year.
Anyway, continuing Fallon’s reality, Orlando Sentinel reports Fallon said that when Leno called him and said “I think I’m ready”, Fallon’s response was, “Let’s do it the right way, the way it should be, with respect to the guy who’s been No. 1 over twentysomething years.”
Don’t count Leno out. Asked what’s the best advice he’s received from Leno, Fallon answered, “Longer monologues.”
“I was doing about a three-, four-minute monologue. He was like, ‘Make it like seven, eight minutes.’ He said some people don’t have time to see the news and they catch up on the news from your monologue sometimes. Give them a good monologue, a good solid eight- to 10-minute monologue.”