Here we go again.
For the second time in five years, Jay Leno is leaving NBC's “Tonight Show,” this time in favor of Jimmy Fallon, who takes over on Feb. 17. And Fallon, who will welcome Will Smith and the rock band U2 as his first guests, made sure from the start that this transition would be a smooth — and permanent — one.
“After the whole Conan (O'Brien)-Jay thing went down, I called Jay and told him, 'I'm not gunning for your position at all. I'm very happy here at 12:37 a.m. ... When you do decide to step down, let's do it the right way,'” Fallon told reporters at the Television Critics Association press tour on Sunday.
Fallon went on to say that he and Leno spoke via phone often leading up to the change, until one day last year, Leno called to say, “I think this is going to be the year, and I'd love for you to be the next guy.”
Fallon's reign will begin at midnight after the Winter Olympics. The “Tonight Show” will slip into its regular slot following the local news a week later, with Seth Meyers inheriting Fallon's old “Late Night” role.
Fallon said the best specific advice he received from Leno about taking over the “Tonight Show” was to double the length of his current monologue to nine or 10 minutes and make it topical. Fallon agreed.
“He told me that people are busy and they may have missed the news, so you have to give them a complete view of the news and make some jokes about it,” Fallon said.
Although Fallon says he's planning no major alterations for the show, one big change is the venue: He succeeded in persuading NBC to move the “Tonight Show” from Burbank to New York. The show originated in New York, but has been in Southern California since 1972, when Johnny Carson moved it west.
“I think that's where it should be. You've got the lights. Times Square. ... The glitz, the glamor,” said Fallon, who promised that the show would make occasional visits to the West Coast.
As for Leno, Fallon hopes he somehow remains in the NBC family.
“The more Jay, the better,” he said. “Maybe he can be the new detective on 'The Blacklist.'”