tonight show jimmy fallon nbc 'The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon' hosts Michelle Obama, but not Pope Francis

With ratings-challenged NBC struggling to find
its feet as the broadcast network world shifts and rolls beneath it, and with
broadcast television itself being regularly lamented as having one foot in the
grave and the other on slippery ground, one might be tempted to think the
Peacock might as well fold its tail feathers for good.

But there is a center of gravity to the NBC universe, and it is every
weeknight, right after your local news — “The Tonight Show.” On Monday, Feb.
17, that center shifts from its longtime home in Los Angeles (aka “beautiful
downtown Burbank”) to its ancestral home of New York, where it launched with
host Steve Allen in 1954.
After the departure of host Jay Leno (again) following a 22-year run — briefly
interrupted by a failed experiment with Conan O’Brien in 2009-10 — “The Tonight
Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” makes its debut from Studio 6B at 30 Rockefeller
Plaza in Manhattan.
NBC is hoping that injecting new blood into its most venerable franchise will
help the network get its mojo back. It might even be counting on a friendly
ghost or two.
Studio 6B is same space where Jack Paar was host of “The Tonight Show” from
1957 to ’62, and where Johnny Carson did the first third of his run, from 1962
to ’72 (he stayed until 1992, when Leno came in). Lorne Michaels of “Saturday
Night Live” fame comes in as executive producer of the new iteration, with Josh
as producer.
“There’s that great feeling,” Lieb tells Zap2it, “of bringing it back to where the show
came from, to the studio where Paar and Carson were. It gives us a little more
impetus to feel like we have something to live up to. In a good way, the halls
echo with the legends.”
With Seth Meyers replacing him as host of the “Tonight” companion show, “Late
the 39-year-old Fallon, a new father of a 7-month-old daughter, brings
his house band, the Roots, along with his skills as a comic, an interviewer and
a song-and-dance man.
“In a way,” says Lieb, “it’s the closest thing to a real variety show that’s on
TV today.”
Speaking to assembled TV reporters in Pasadena, Calif., in January, Fallon
pointed out that he was happy in his later-night slot and made the point of
telling Leno.
“After the whole Conan-Jay thing went down,” he says, “I was following Jay. He
was back at 11:30. I called up Jay, and I said, ‘Hey, I just want to let you
know that I’m not gunning for your position at all. I’m very happy at 12:30,
7:00 a.m., wherever they put me on. I’m here, I’m in New York, I’m trying to
have a baby. I’m very happy at my job. I’m just not gunning for this. I’m very
happy here.’
“So he goes, ‘I appreciate that.’ I said, ‘And when eventually you decide to
step down, let’s do it the right way.’ And he said, ‘Yeah, of course.’ You just
felt it was different from then on.
“We talk to each other every couple weeks, always giving me advice, all the way
up till now. He called me and said, ‘I think this is going to be the year.’ And
I said, ‘All right.’ And he goes, ‘I’d love for you to be the next guy. I think
you’re going to be great.'”
The logo for the revamped “Tonight Show” features a full moon, but that’s not
the only iconic nighttime symbol that was in Fallon’s mind.
“Why not bring it back to New York?” he says. “What’s going to happen? What’s
the worst that can happen? It’s just a beautiful city. I think of New York, I
think of nighttime. I just think it’s the perfect place, where it should be. I
think of the lights of Times Square and Broadway and night life and the
excitement and the glitz and the glamour of all that is ‘The Tonight Show.’
“I feel like, booking-wise, it’s never been a problem for us. We’ve had the President of the United States on our show. I mean, you can’t get bigger than
“The pope,” Lieb interjects.
“Well,” says Fallon, “the pope. We have to have the pope. So, I mean, if we move
to the Vatican — we were thinking about that. We were thinking about doing the
show in the Vatican, and then … if you want to book anyone but the pope, you
shouldn’t do a talk show in Italy.”
Announced guests for the first show are Will Smith and U2. Then on Thursday,
Feb. 20, first lady Michelle Obama stops by.