By ADAM BUCKMAN
NEW YORK, May 29, 2013 — Jimmy Fallon said two years ago he’d “love” to host “The Tonight Show,” but only when Jay Leno “is ready” to hand over the reins.
Fallon said it on Ellen DeGeneres’ talk show in March 2011. It was a time, much like the present day, when stories were circulating that NBC was grooming Fallon to take over “The Tonight Show.”
“If they offered that to you, would you go into that time slot?” Ellen asked Fallon, who first gave a less-than-serious answer.
“Letterman did [NBC’s “Late Night”] and then he went to CBS,” Fallon said. “Then Conan did [it] and he’s at TBS. So I think if there’s a lesson to be learned, if you do this, you’re guaranteed not to host ‘The Tonight Show’!”
Turning serious, Fallon said, “Of course, I’d love to do it whenever Jay’s ready, if Jay wants to retire.”
Why bring this up? Simply because it can be instructive sometimes to comb through the archives for instances where history repeats itself. As far as I can tell, that round of stories about Fallon replacing Leno originated in December 2010 with a New York Post story that reported Fallon was even then being eyed to take over for Jay.
Granted, the stories back then were less specific than the stories circulating now that say Fallon’s “Tonight Show” takeover is, for all intents and purposes, a done deal — with Fallon set to replace Leno in summer 2014, after Jay gets a final “farewell” season starting in September.
In addition, it’s always interesting to go back to past statements — like the ones Fallon made that day on “Ellen” — to assess their relevance in light of more recent events. Certainly, Fallon’s assertion then that he would “love” taking over “The Tonight Show” only if and when Leno is ready to retire may have been wholly sincere.
But the fact is, all the recent stories about NBC’s Fallon-Leno replacement plan (which the network has yet to confirm) indicate that Leno is not “ready” nor is he thinking about retirement. Instead, NBC is expected to force the issue by not renewing his contract when it expires next year.
And in response, Leno’s been defiantly fighting back as only he knows how — by skewering his network with monologue jokes almost nightly for the better part of three weeks.
So, how does Fallon feel today about taking over “The Tonight Show” at a time when Leno, by all appearances, does not seem “ready” to retire? Fallon has made no comment this time around like the ones he made on “Ellen” two years ago.
Contact Adam Buckman: email@example.com
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