A Week in Links: April 7

It’s official, Jimmy Fallon will take over for Jay Leno in 2014. The worst kept secret in show-business, after Game of Thrones being renewed for a fourth season, was finally announced by NBC on April 3. Fallon becomes the youngest face in late night and NBC hopes that he brings a much younger audience with him to 11:30. With the Winter Olympics promotional opportunity in early 2014, Fallon’s unveiling on the Tonight Show will be a calculated marketing campaign.

NBC said in its press release: 

“We are purposefully making this change when Jay is #1, just as Jay replaced Johnny Carson when he was #1.  Jimmy Fallon is a unique talent and this is his time.  I’m thrilled he will become the sixth host of ‘The Tonight Show’ at exactly the right moment, in conjunction with our coverage of next year’s Winter Olympic Games from Sochi, Russia.”

But does it matter?

The Tonight Show, and network late night talk shows in general have been losing the “key demographic” of adults 18-34 for a while now to the Daily Show and Colbert Report. The report also says that Colbert has beaten the Tonight Show in the “demo” for the last quarter. And as Comedy Central put it, “They’re all fighting for third place now.”

Kids these days just don’t watch late night talk shows anymore. What’s wrong with those kids? Is it a dying format?

Comedy Central’s “dominance” isn’t everlasting. Jon Stewart is taking a 12-week leave of absence this summer to work on a film project, with John Oliver stepping in. This could be seen as a trial run for Jon Stewart’s replacement. And Stephen Colbert has been long-rumored for David Letterman’s job when Letterman eventually leaves, so this cable network smack talk could be just that, smack talk. Cable channels are obviously worrying the networks, which is evident in the Fallon move.  All of this corporate intrigue and speculation is a lot of fun, isn’t it?

Letterman’s contract is up in 2014 as well, but it’s not looking like he will step down anytime soon. But we can speculate on who will succeed him anyways. Colbert would bring a younger audience with him from Comedy Central but the problem with Colbert is that his entire show is based on his fictitiously ultra-conservative character. Would Colbert bring his persona with him to the Late Show, or would he try and sell the show with his real personality? Craig Ferguson is never mentioned as a candidate to replace Letterman, nor should he be. His loose, improvisational style of hosting is avant garde compared to Letterman, and if he is chosen to move into 11:30, he’ll experience the same treatment that Conan did.

Here’s some intrepid reporting. I saw Leno leaving In N’ Out Burger in a 1920’s Premier. (Photo: Jonathan Biles)

By the way, there’s no way that Leno will just go work on his cars and do stand-up. I would be shocked if he doesn’t have another show on the air by next year. He has a large, loyal following who will go with him regardless of channel or time-slot.

***

Now, the questions of who will replace Jimmy Fallon come front and center. Grantland’s Staff projected and prognosticated who they think (more who they want) will replace Fallon. Most of their picks are ridiculous, including Tracy Morgan – who can barely get through one interview segment, let alone host a nightly show. Some other Grantland-ers picked Hannibal Burress, not famous enough. Alec Baldwin, too busy. Marc Maron, too weird. Andy Cohen is an interesting pick but the favorite is, and should be, Seth Meyers.

With Lorne Michaels controlling NBC’s highest rated show over the past ratings period, Saturday Night Live, producing the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, the natural step is Seth Meyers. SNL can always get another head writer, Lorne will be more powerful than he’s ever been, and he doesn’t make too many mistakes with the projects that he produces. The issue with Meyers is, that will mean three major talk shows – not including Stewart and Colbert – will be in New York and the competition for getting high-profile guests will be ruthless. Michaels and Meyers need to move the show to Los Angeles, period. Most of the celebrities live there anyways and they will nab better guests with only Craig Ferguson, Jimmy Kimmel and Conan in their way. Meyers and Fallon both come from SNL and Weekend Update and are both bright, enthusiastic and well-liked. Seth Meyers is perfect for Late Night, and will be happy to get it after he wasn’t picked for Live! with Kelly – the job went to former NFL player Michael Strahan.

***

Now instead of the contentious history of Letterman and Leno at 11:30 p.m., it will be the friendly battle of the Jimmy’s.

The day that the news came out, Jimmy Kimmel – Fallon’s new ABC rival – tweeted:

Regardless of the ratings outcome and hosting changes, late night television never ceases to bore. More kids should start watching.

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