NBC on Wednesday announced its long-rumored switch in late night, replacing Jay Leno at the "Tonight" show with Jimmy Fallon and moving the iconic franchise back to New York. Fallon will take over in about a year, the switch coinciding with NBC's Winter Olympics coverage. Veteran "Saturday Night Live" producer Lorne Michaels also will take over as executive producer of "Tonight."
NBC made no announcement on who would replace Fallon at the 12:35 a.m. "Late Night" slot, although SNL's Seth Meyers is considered a strong candidate.
The change at "Tonight," the longest-running and most popular late-night talk show, had been widely reported but not confirmed by the network until Wednesday. NBC reportedly just wrapped up negotiations with Fallon on a contract extension.
Steve Burke, chief executive officer of NBC Universal, said the network is purposefully making the move when Leno is still at the top of the ratings, just as when Leno replaced Johnny Carson at "Tonight" in 1992. "Jimmy Fallon is a unique talent and this is his time," Burke said.
Leno offered his congratulations to Fallon. "I hope you're as lucky as me and hold on to the job until you're the old guy," he said. "If you need me, I'll be at the garage."
Fallon said, "I'm really excited to host a show that starts today instead of tomorrow."
On his "Late Show" Wednesday on CBS, David Letterman feasted on the announcement. "[Leno is] being replaced by a younger late night talk show host — what could possibly go wrong? Honestly. They had pretty good luck with this in the past," he said, referring to Conan O'Brien's short-lived stint at the helm of the NBC show. NBC has been quietly building a studio for Fallon at its Rockefeller Center headquarters. "Tonight" began in New York in the 1950s, but Carson moved it to California in 1972. Starting next year, Fallon, Letterman, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert will tape late-night shows in New York. ABC's Jimmy Kimmel and TNT's O'Brien will be the top California-based shows. NBC is worried that Kimmel will establish himself as a go-to late night performer for a younger generation if the network doesn't move swiftly to install Fallon.
Ebert says he has recurrence of cancer
Roger Ebert said that he is stepping back from some duties as Chicago Sun-Times' film critic after a recurrence of cancer. Calling the move a "leave of presence," Ebert, 70, wrote on his online journal: "The 'painful fracture' that made it difficult for me to walk has recently been revealed to be a cancer. It is being treated with radiation, which has made it impossible for me to attend as many movies as I used to." He wrote that he is "not going away" but will be relying more on others to review films, such as his colleague Richard Roeper.