Ed here: It's not that I'm a big fan of Jay Leno's. But I wonder about NBC, well known for making some of the worst decisions in TV history, dumping him when he's number one by far in the late night wars. And I seem to be in the minority about Fallon. So unctuous. So frantic. Here's the most eloquent and wise writer about show biz I know, Mark Evanier from his website. News From ME.
Lots of messages about Leno, all from folks I'm not sure want their names used so I won't. This one's from a friend in the TV business…
What if the Jimmy Fallon show is getting a .5 rating six months in, and NBC goes back to Leno and says they'll double his paycheck he'll do the show one more time? Did anybody ask him that? (I'm not saying that Jay is planning it.)
If they'd asked Jay that, he would have given the most diplomatic answer — that's not going to happen — but it's also probably the true one. This isn't like last time when Jay was still up and running with his 10 PM show. He had a studio, offices, a full staff, etc. Going back to The Tonight Show was just a matter of bringing in a new desk, booking more guests and changing the name on the studio doors. A pal of mine there then said that if they'd called Jay at 3:00 in the afternoon and said, "Hey, instead of taping The Jay Leno Show in an hour, make it an episode of The Tonight Show," they could have pulled it off.
This time, Jay's whole infrastructure there is being dismantled. There'll be no studio, no offices, no staff, etc. The Tonight Show is moving to New York, remember. Jay would have to start from scratch. NBC couldn't just pop him back into the slot while they looked around for the young guy they think can do the show for the next decade or two. If Fallon bombs to the point where they can't keep him on — which I also don't think will happen — they'll have to go out and find that next fellow in a hurry. (Also, it'll be a little harder to get rid of Fallon than it was to get rid of O'Brien. Fallon has Lorne Michaels behind him.)
This message is from a friend who works with Mr. Leno…
You're right. Jay didn't want to go off the air. I'm surprised as you that he's ruling out another late night slot now because he doesn't have to do that. As recently as a few weeks ago, he wasn't ruling that out. He was just chuckling and saying, "I'm not going to think about that now." Apparently, he has thought about it. It has me wondering if he has a new gig but it doesn't exactly fall under the definition of competing with the other guys in late night.