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The Two Jimmys Battle For America’s Late-Night Viewing Habit

LisaColumn__131015210634-275x198Weekly Column: Three weeks into the post-Jay Leno Tonight Show era, his replacement Jimmy Fallon is still the frontrunner, though his margins have shrunk, his ABC competitor Jimmy Kimmel has regained ground he lost temporarily during Fallon’s highly hyped first week with a Sochi Olympics lead-in. Now the two Jimmys are settling in for the long haul, as they wrestle over America’s late-night viewing habit.

All eyes were on Fallon when he kicked off his Tonight tenure during the second Monday of NBC’s Olympics coverage, with a star-studded week that included guests Will Smith, Fallon monologueU2, Jerry Seinfeld, Lady Gaga, the First Lady, and Justin Timberlake. More than 11 million viewers listened as Fallon asked that they give him time to get it right. And, over the course of that first week, with DVR-watchers factored in, Fallon drew the biggest weekly audience Tonight had enjoyed since Johnny Carson signed off after 30 years in 1992 — an average of 10.42 million viewers. Those viewers, NBC noted, had the youngest median age of any weekly crowd for any of the broadcast TV 11:35 PM talk shows this season: 52.6 years.

Then the honeymoon was over.

In Fallon’s Week 2, headline writers turned their attention to ABC’s Kimmel and the ninth iteration of his much-ballyhooed, even more celeb-studded post-Oscar show, which jumped 22% in total viewers year-to-year to nab nearly 7 million viewers. It was the ABC late-night program’s largest-ever overall audience for any single-day telecast in either late-night or primetime and up 20% in the demo, to reach 2.423 million. In each of the country’s Top 3 markets – New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago – Kimmel’s show coming out of the most-watched Oscarcast in a decade outperformed both the final Tonight broadcast with Leno and the first Tonight with Fallon, in households and in the demo.

KimmelFordKimmel followed this up the very next night with what members of the media regarded as the Holy Grail of late-night bookings — Toronto’s wildly unpredictable, much-memed Mayor Rob Ford. This past Monday, Kimmel mopped sweat from Ford’s brow, and suggested the mayor might want to get some help if he does in fact have a drinking problem, which Ford laughed off, saying he “wasn’t elected to be perfect” and that he is “just a normal average, hardworking politician.”  To which Kimmel respectfully insisted Ford is not only not average, “you are the most wonderful mayor I’ve ever witnessed.” And, while final stats for Monday’s sit-down aren’t available yet, Jimmy Kimmel Live that night achieved a 2.5/6 in metered market homes, jumping 19% (and 50% in the demo) from the prior Monday, to land in his nearest competitive position on a Monday yet against Fallon. That said, Fallon still topped Kimmel by 68% in metered market households and by 89% in demo ratings in the 25 LPM markets, with his former Saturday Night Live Weekend Update co-anchor Tina Fey as guest. (Kimmel’s Oscar surge appeared to have fizzled by Tuesday night where, in Nielsen’s 56 metered markets, JKL fell to a 1.7/5 — well behind Fallon’s 3.5/9 — though ABC’s new 10 PM series Mind Games, with its 0.6 demo rating and its 2, 2.120 million viewers, may have contributed.) Read More »

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Jay Leno’s ‘Tonight Show’ Finale: His Farewell Speech (Video)

By | Friday February 7, 2014 @ 1:18am PST

Jay Leno’s ‘Tonight Show’ Exit: Carefully Orchestrated Do-Over
White House Gives Shout-Out To Jay Leno: “End Of An Era”

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Jay Leno’s ‘Tonight Show’ Finale: Billy Crystal’s Celebrity Musical Featuring Oprah Winfrey, Kim Kardashian, Jack Black (Video)

By | Friday February 7, 2014 @ 1:14am PST

As a parting gift, Billy Crystal and the Shut Your Von Trapp Family Singers sang “So Long Farewell” to Jay Leno. Here is the video featuring Crystal, Jack Black, Oprah Winfrey, Kim Kardashian, Chris Paul, Sheryl Crow, Carol Burnett and Jim Parsons. (Musical number starts after the 2 min mark):

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Jay Leno’s ‘Tonight Show’ Finale: Jay Leno & Billy Crystal’s Monologues (Video)

By | Friday February 7, 2014 @ 12:57am PST

The final Tonight Show With Jay Leno featured two monologues, one by Leno and by his guest and old friend, Billy Crystal, who was Leno’s first guest on The Tonight Show in May 1993, and helped close things out Thursday night. Here are clips of Leno’s final Tonight Show monologue and of Crystal’s routine, which highlighted some of Leno’s best Tonight Show jokes through the years:

Jay Leno’s ‘Tonight Show’ Exit: Carefully Orchestrated Do-Over
White House Gives Shout-Out To Jay Leno: “End Of An Era”

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Jay Leno Gets His Name In Lights — And A Thank-You From NBC — On Burbank High-Rise: Photo

By | Wednesday February 5, 2014 @ 9:43pm PST

His Tonight Show predecessor often had fun with “beautiful downtown Burbank,” but tonight Jay Leno likely agrees with that sentiment. NBC organized a glowing tribute to the departing host of its late-night staple, using the city’s tallest building to spell out “THX JAY!” in lights. The display will continue Thursday night, which will mark Leno’s final Tonight Show after 22 years as its full-time host.

Related: Jay Leno’s ‘Tonight Show’ Exit: Carefully Orchestrated Do-Over


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Jay Leno’s ‘Tonight Show’ Exit: Carefully Orchestrated Do-Over

LisaColumn__131015210634-275x198On Thursday night, Jay Leno once again will hand over The Tonight Show to NBC’s younger-better idea – this time it’s his lead-out, Jimmy Fallon.

Most of the coverage has been about Leno taking with him a commanding ratings lead in late-night, not only among total viewers but also in the 18-49 age bracket advertisers covet.  And in the days leading up to his exit, The Reporters Who Cover Television dusted off think pieces about Leno leaving the show in the wake of a demographic shift affecting millions of baby boomers who are being pushed aside to make way for a younger generation with different sensibilities. In many ways, Leno’s handoff to Fallon does mirror the first time the press wrote those think pieces, when NBC replaced Leno withJay Leno NBC his lead-out, Conan O’Brien in 2009 – a plan that famously flamed out over seven months.

Related: Jay Leno Hazes Jimmy Fallon On ‘Tonight Show’ (Video)

But the bigger news here is the incredible gift Leno’s been given: a handoff do-over.

It’s a loaded gift for Leno.  He owes much of his ratings success, and longevity, to the fact that he’s much adored in flyover country — Leno won last month’s 60 Minutes/Vanity Fair poll asking which late-night host was most likely to make you laugh, handily beating his latest replacement Fallon, his first replacement O’Brien, David Letterman, Jimmy Kimmel, and Craig Ferguson. But the media doesn’t like Leno so much, having pegged him decades ago as the closet-hiding, eavesdropper who backstabbed their late-night crushes Letterman and, later, O’Brien.

Related: ‘Tonight Show With Jay Leno’ Sets Final Guests As NBC’s Bob Greenblatt Addresses Jay Leno’s Future, Possible Car Show
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Jimmy Fallon Hands Over Legendary Pickle To His ‘Late Night’ Successor Seth Meyers

By | Tuesday January 28, 2014 @ 7:00pm PST

Jimmy Fallon carried on the Late Night host tradition, handing off the legendary plastic pickle to his successor Seth Meyers during Meyers’ appearance Tuesday on Late Night. The pickle was passed on to Fallon from Conan O’Brien when Fallon took over Late Night in 2009. O’Brien had received it from David Letterman‘s staff. Meyers takes over as host of Late Night on February 24 after Fallon moves to The Tonight Show.
Late Night with Jimmy Fallon - Season 5
Here’s Fallon talking about the pickle on February 24, 2009 when he first started Late Night.

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Jay Leno & Jimmy Fallon Slated For Joint Interview With Matt Lauer On ‘Today’

By | Friday January 24, 2014 @ 4:11pm PST

jay_leno_jimmy_fallon_horizontal_a_lDeparting Tonight Show show host Jay Leno and his successor Jimmy Fallon will sit down with Matt Lauer in their first joint interview set to air January 27 on Today. According to NBC, Leno and Fallon talk about the Tonight Show legacy and how they have handled the passing of the mic. They also discuss the fraternity of late-night comedians and what they do to keep tabs on one another. Fallon will begin hosting The Tonight Show on Monday, February 17. Meanwhile, CBS spoke with Jay Leno about the upcoming Tonight transition in an interview set to air Sunday on 60 Minutes.


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‘Tonight Show With Jay Leno’ Sets Final Guests As NBC’s Bob Greenblatt Addresses Jay Leno’s Future, Possible Car Show

By | Sunday January 19, 2014 @ 11:03am PST
Nellie Andreeva

Jay-Leno-and-Billy-Crystal-735346UPDATED: February 2014 will feel a lot like May 2009 on The Tonight Show. In 2009, when Jay Leno bid farewell to the late-night show for the first time, his final two episodes featured his first guest when he made his Tonight Show debut in 1992, Billy Crystal, followed by a visit by his Tonight Show successor, Conan O’Brien, the next night. Five years later, Leno’s second final week at The Tonight Show will once again feature his new successor, Jimmy Fallon, on Feb. 6, and Crystal on Leno’s last show, Feb. 6, which also will feature musical guest and longtime Leno friend, Garth Brooks. Other guests on Leno’s final week include Betty White, Matthew McConaughey and Sandra Bullock.

Related: Jimmy Fallon Talks ‘Tonight Show’ Timeline

logogarageCould Leno do a car show next? Acknowledging Leno in his opening remarks for his successful turn on The Tonight Show, Greenblatt noted, “I’m hoping we will enter into a new relationship with him and keep his home on NBC.” Asked about Leno’s prospects at NBC post-Feb. 6, he later said, “I would love him to do specials with us, and other shows he could host.” After the session, he noted that “it may be a series franchise,” adding that “Jay loves cars” but declining further specifics. Leno obviously is a big car enthusiast, and his … Read More »

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George W. Bush Set For ‘The Tonight Show’ Next Week

By | Tuesday November 12, 2013 @ 4:25pm PST

When NBC sent out its weekly Tonight Show listings yesterday, there was a curious lack of guests for November 19. Ben Harper and Charlie Musselwhite have the music gig, but there wasn’t a headliner. Now we know why. The network spilled to the AP today that President George W. Bush will make his fourth appearance on the Jay Leno-hosted show that night, taking about life after the White House. It’s a solid get for the show, as the former commander-in-chief has kept relatively quiet since leaving office in 2009, rarely giving extended interviews. He most recently sat with Leno in November 2010. Not a bad November sweep for The Tonight Show thus far, politically speaking: Tea Party champion Sen. Ted Cruz made his debut on the late-night circuit with Leno this past Friday.

Related: Obamacare Angles For Starring Role On Primetime TV

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Leno On Letterman: What Beef? Says Two Chat & ‘He Still Makes Me Laugh’: VIDEO

By | Saturday November 2, 2013 @ 12:20pm PDT

Longtime late night rivals Jay Leno and David Letterman have made peace in the past, although it took Oprah sitting between them to pull off 2010′s surprise joint Super Bowl spot. And while Letterman has repeatedly taken potshots at Leno over the decades, he actually complimented his bitter rival on “a nice long run” this Spring after news of his impending squeeze-out from NBC. And last night on The Tonight Show Leno revealed that the two have been in contact. “We started out together – he still makes me laugh,” he told guest Andy Cohen. “I spoke to him a month ago, we talked about things in TV and what not and what was going on here.” Leno then expressed gratitude to the late Johnny Carson for giving him his break before he inherited the Tonight Show chair (over Letterman), the snub that started their beef back in 1992. Can the ice be melting as Jay heads for the exits – again? Watch it here:

Related: Letterman Slams NBC & Jokes About Leno’s ‘Tonight Show’ Departure

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Jimmy Fallon Talks ‘Tonight Show’ Timeline

By | Thursday October 17, 2013 @ 5:23pm PDT

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.
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NBC Prepping Johnny Carson Miniseries

By | Thursday September 19, 2013 @ 10:19am PDT
Nellie Andreeva

NBC has put in development a miniseries about the life of iconic late-night talk show host Johnny Carson. Based on Bill Zehme’s upcoming biography Carson The Magnificent: An Intimate Portrait published by Simon & Schuster, the project will cover Carson’s 30-year run (1962-92) as host of The Tonight Show, as well as his childhood growing up in Nebraska, his often secluded off-camera life and friendships he made throughout his career as one of the most beloved TV personalities of all time. Casting the role of Carson is expected to begin soon. The Johnny Carson miniseries is part of NBC’s push in the longform arena. Another such project, a miniseries about former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, has become the focus of controversy. The network’s other miniseries/limited series in the works include a four-hour updated remake and resetting of Rosemary’s Baby; a new version of Stephen King’s Tommyknockers; Plymouth, the story of the landing of the pilgrims, produced by The Bible‘s Mark Burnett; and AD: After The Bible, a limited series sequel to hit The Bible, with Burnett.

Related: NBC Developing Hillary Clinton Miniseries, ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ & ‘Tommyknockers’

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Greta Van Susteren Urges Fox To Grab Jay Leno The Day After He Leaves NBC

By | Monday August 12, 2013 @ 6:15pm PDT

Greta Van Susteren — network programming executive? The host of Fox News’ On The Record took to her blog today to urge Fox to hire Jay Leno after he leaves NBC after next year’s Winter Olympics. “FOX BROADCAST (not Fox News Channel) should hire Jay Leno on February 7, 2014 (of course no one is asking me …),” she wrote. Deadline reported Friday that Leno’s last night as host of The Tonight Show will be February 6. Van Susteren went on to scold NBC about letting Leno go while he still wins his late-slot time slot, saying the network is “rolling the dice. If I were a shareholder, I would wonder about that one.” Her endorsement wasn’t exactly vague: “I think Fox Broadcast should sign him up and compete against his old network,” Van Susteren wrote. Jimmy Fallon will take over the Tonight Show hosting duties shortly after the Sochi Olympics end in late February.

Related: Adam Sandler To Leno: “Maybe Go To Fox”

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Adam Sandler To Leno: “Maybe Go To Fox”

By | Thursday May 16, 2013 @ 7:48pm PDT

Jay Leno is readying to exit stage left from NBC’s Tonight Show next February. So Adam Sandler was a guest Thursday and offered a little unsolicited advice about Leno’s post-Tonight plans. Of course, Sandler doesn’t mention that the problem is that Fox would have to get clearance for any late-night show from the affiliates who get to keep all the ad revenue from their late local news. Fox then might have to compensate them for any lost revenue. In other words, it’s complicated. Read the transcript after the jump: Read More »

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Jay Leno Slams “Cheap” CBS, Calls Out Les Moonves During Craig Ferguson Chat: Video

By | Wednesday May 8, 2013 @ 11:37pm PDT

Jay Leno had some choice words for rival CBS and its brass during his interview Wednesday with Late Late Show host Craig Ferguson who was making his second appearance on The Tonight Show in less than two months. When the conversation swung to a recent incident when fellow late-nighter Ferguson’s studio got soaked by a faulty air conditioner unit, Leno took some jabs at the Eye network and singled out Les Moonves. Watch the clip below:

Related: TV Weekly Warfare: CBS Ties Fox In Demo, Wins Viewers

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Lorne Michaels Says He’s Not Leaving ‘SNL’ Anytime Soon But Stays Quiet About ‘Tonight Show’ At HRTS Lunch

“I’ll do it as long as I possibly can. I think that there will be a day when I’ll look at it and say I don’t have the edge I used to,” said Lorne Michaels today about his future at Saturday Night LiveA seasoned and cool operator, the late night executive producer of course did not say when that day might be and if it would be related to his taking over The Tonight Show next year. In fact, Michaels didn’t say a lot about the Tonight Show Tuesday at a Comedy On TV luncheon hosted by the Hollywood Radio and Television Society on Tuesday in Beverly Hills. Of course, that’s what was on everyone’s mind now that Michael’s protégé Jimmy Fallon has formally been tipped by NBC to take over the show next year. Michaels’ one Tonight Show comment was about the plan to move the show back to New York after over 40 years out in Burbank. “Jimmy’s from New York, the show appeals to New York, I think New York is different from when Carson left and New York was on its ass,” the soon-to-be Tonight Show EP remarked. Fellow Canadian and former SNL regular Martin Short moderated the sitdown with the multiple Emmy-winner and past and future ruler of late night. “It worked out that way,” Michaels joked when Short asked if he really ruled late night. Michaels’ recent appointment as the upcoming Executive Producer of The Tonight Show means he is in control of NBC’s 11:30 PM slot six of the seven nights of the week.

Related: Lorne Michaels: The Real NBC Late Night King 
Read More »

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Jay Leno Has Best Wednesday Night In 9 Weeks After Retirement Announcement; Jimmy Fallon Up Too

By | Thursday April 4, 2013 @ 10:36am PDT

Jay Leno might be leaving The Tonight Show, but he can still really pull a crowd. And with all the attention NBC’s late-night shifts received Wednesday, that is exactly what he did. On the day his replacement Jimmy Fallon was made official, Leno had his best Wednesday since January 20. The Tonight Show got a 2.9/7 in the 56 metered markets households last night, according to Nielsen. He also drew a 0.9/4 in the 25 markets with Local People Meters. That’s up 12% from March 27’s Tonight Show in metered market households and a strong 29% in adults 18-49 in Local People Meters. That matches Leno’s best Wednesday result of the year so far, tied with January 2.

Jay Leno & Jimmy Fallon Play Nice In Tonight’s Monologues
In Letterman-Leno Rivalry, Dave Gets Last Laugh

Like Leno, Fallon addressed his move to the Tonight Show on his show last night. His show saw a bump too. Read More »

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In Letterman- Leno Rivalry, Dave Gets Last Laugh

By | Wednesday April 3, 2013 @ 8:16pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

Two decades after the Jay Leno-David Letterman battle for The Tonight Show, the Tonight Show curse has struck again with yet another messy host transition. In 1992, NBC had two hot young comedians eager to replace longtime Tonight host Johnny Carson, Leno and Letterman. The network chose Leno and created a formidable late-night rival in Letterman, who defected to CBS to launch The Late Show. Leno and Letterman had been going at each other ever since, looking to outrate and outlast each other. Letterman had the upper hand in the ratings early on before Leno took the lead, holding onto it for the most of the past 17 years. The two even have been timing their contracts to end at the same time. They did it again this time, with Leno’s deal up in September 2014 and Letterman’s contract also going through late 2014.

Related: NBC Sets ‘Tonight Show’ Transition With Jimmy Fallon Taking Over In Spring 2014

NBC‘s announcement today that Leno will retire in spring (likely February) of 2014, assures that Letterman will be the last man standing in the duo’s 20-year rivalry. Having outlasted his archrival, 65-year-old Letterman too may decide to retire at the end of his deal instead of going toe-to-toe with younger new competitors, Jimmy Fallon (38) on NBC and Jimmy Kimmel (45) on ABC. The key thing is that it will likely be his decision to make. Letterman has largely been given carte blanche to do the show for as long as he wants to. (Though in his recent interview with Oprah, Letterman claimed he has an agreement with CBS topper Les Moonves that Moonves has to tell him when it is time to go.) Read More »

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