Following months of anonymous reports from various new sources that Jimmy Fallon would be taking over for Jay Leno as host of The Tonight Show next year, NBC today has finally confirmed that it’s happening. The NY Times reports that the network will install Fallon as Tonight Show host at the end of the network’s coverage of the Winter Olympics in February of next year from Sochi, Russia. Under Fallon, The Tonight Show will move to New York City, where NBC has constructed a new state-of-the-art studio in 30 Rockefeller Center for the host.
The Times reports that Leno’s departure is amicable, unlike when he handed the show off to Conan O’Brien in 2009. Leno told The Times, “The main difference between this and the other time is I’m part of the process. The last time the decision was made without me. I came into work one day and — you’re out. There really aren’t any complications like there were the last time. This time it feels right.” NBC allegedly offered Leno the option of staying on The Tonight Show until the last day of his contract in September 2014, but Leno claims he told them, “I appreciate that, but it’s not really necessary. And I don’t want to make it harder for Jimmy. I want to hand off something that’s going to make it easier … If we really want to give him a good send-off, how about after the Olympics?” Leno’s nice guy approach to handing the show over starkly contrasts with previous late night battles he’s been involved in - a ‘93 conflict with Letterman and an ‘10 clash with O’Brien. This time, it seems like it was hardly a battle at all, as Fallon was happy to politely wait his turn and Leno seems ready to leave the show behind.
As far as Leno’s next move goes, the host tells The Times that he will go “back on the road, being a comedian again … I’ve done this job for a long time and I really enjoy it. Would I do it again? Believe me, the phone’s not ringing off the hook. It will be nice if people seem interested. But I’ll let it sit where it is.” Moving to Fox seems like it’s the best bet for Leno, as it’s the only major network without an 11:30 late night show and he is still the #1-rated host in late night. Fox’s affiliate board expressed interest in Leno last month, but the Fox network said they have “no plans for a late-night show — at this time.” There are still more pieces to shuffle around, but for the most part, the latest “late night war” – which is hardly a “war” at all – is now over, and Fallon’s transition into becoming the sixth Tonight Show host looks like it will continue to be a peaceful one as February nears.