It's Official: Jimmy Fallon to Replace Conan O'Brien on 'Late Night'
NEW YORK, May 16
NBC suits, looking for something big to announce on their traditional first day of Broadcast TV Upfront Week -- other than that Christian Slater will be compelled to drive only GM cars in his new NBC series, "My Own Worst Enemy," plus a reality series from Ryan Seacrest about "Momma's Boys" -- finally, officially, announced the worst-kept secret in months: Jimmy Fallon has been tapped to replace Conan O'Brien as only the third host of "Late Night."
O'Brien, of course, is taking over as host of "Tonight" next year, whether current host Jay Leno likes it or not. Which he does not.
As is usual with news conferences of this kind, NBC executives and the star of the show went to great lengths to say nothing.
NBC suits declined to discuss the length of Fallon's contract or when they hope to launch the Fallon-hosted version of "Late Night."
"We have no idea," NBC co-president in charge of programming Ben Silverman told one reporter, who seemed skeptical.
"I keep asking [executive producer Lorne Michaels] about it and he keeps telling me not to worry about it. I just want to live comfortably -- in Dubai," Fallon told reporters, in re his salary.
"I have the same contract as Willard Scott does -- 150 years," Fallon said, when one reporter asked, which is an understandable question, given Conan suffered through years of 13-week-long contracts early in his "Late Night" hosting career.
Michaels said the transition probably would happen sometime in the first six months of '09. "Or possibly the second six months," he added.
The transition schedule is something of an unknown, he said, because they are still talking to Leno to try to find a way to keep him at NBC.
That's right, make it Leno's fault.
Leno has dominated late-night TV since surpassing CBS's "Late Show With David Letterman" in the ratings in '95. But that did not stop NBC from deciding in '04 to sign a deal with Conan, agreeing to give him the coveted show in '09, to keep him from going elsewhere when his contract came up. NBC hopes Conan will take his young male audience -- the hot blond chicks of late-night TV -- with him.