As part of the transition, The Tonight Show will, as expected, return to its original 30 Rock home in New York and will be exec-produced by Saturday Night Live‘s Lorne Michaels (aka Fallon’s EP on Late Night.)
“Congratulations Jimmy,” Leno said in a statement. “I hope you’re as lucky as me and hold on to the job until you’re the old guy. If you need me, I’ll be at the garage.”
Added Fallon: “I’m really excited to host a show that starts today instead of tomorrow.”
The announcement caps a tense couple of months between NBC and Leno, who had been taking jabs at the Peacock’s ratings woes and even called network execs “snakes” in recent monologues (alleged retaliation for the then-forthcoming Tonight switch). The network attempted to squelch the escalating controversy (and avoid a repeat of the 2009 Leno/Conan O’Brien PR debacle) by releasing a cheeky video earlier this week featuring Leno and Fallon poking fun at the situation.
NBC no doubt paid a stiff financial penalty to get Leno to vacate his throne seven months early (his contract wasn’t due to expire until September 2014), but it will likely be worth it: Fallon’s Tonight Show debut will coincide with the network’s coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympics.
“Jay Leno is an entertainment icon, making millions of people laugh every weeknight for more than 20 years,” said NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke. “His long reign as the highest-rated late-night host is a testament to his work ethic and dedication to his viewers and to NBC.”
No official word on who will replace Fallon at Late Night, but sources confirm SNL‘s Seth Meyers remains the odds-on-favorite for the job. NBC would only say, “Programming plans for the 12:35 a.m. time period currently are in development and will be announced soon.”