It’s official: Jay’s walking.
Jay Leno announced on Wednesday that he'll step down as the host of NBC’s “The Tonight Show” for the second time. The move will take place in spring 2014, when Jimmy Fallon, host of “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon,” will take over the 59-year-old franchise. The program will be relocated from Los Angeles to New York City’s 30 Rockefeller Plaza, its original home before former host, Johnny Carson, moved it out west in 1972.
Leno will leave behind a 22-year legacy on the iconic program -- aside from a short-lived departure, during which time Fallon’s predecessor, Conan O’Brien, hosted the show.
For the past few weeks, as rumors circulated that NBC wanted to push Leno out to make room for the younger Fallon, Leno had made frequent sport of hurling insults at his NBC bosses. But his announcement showed only a slight twinge of that apparent resentment.
“Congratulations Jimmy,” he said in a statement. “I hope you're as lucky as me and hold on to the job until you’re the old guy. If you need me, I'll be at the garage.”
Meanwhile, in an interview with the New York Times’ Bill Carter on Wednesday, Leno downplayed those tensions, drawing contrast between his pending retirement and the 2010 debacle with Conan O’Brien.
“The main difference between this and the other time is I’m part of the process,” Leno told the Times. “The last time the decision was made without me. I came into work one day and -- you’re out … This time it feels right.”
According to NBC, “The Tonight Show” ranked No. 1 in total viewers for each season since Leno’s return in March 2010, and for the 14 seasons before his departure in May 2009. “Tonight” consistently attracts more eyeballs than either David Letterman on CBS or Jimmy Kimmel on ABC, averaging 3.9 million nightly viewers.
Fallon also has consistently ranked No. 1 in his timeslot, averaging 1.7 million viewers since his 2009 debut.
NBC hasn't yet made a decision about Fallon’s replacement, so let those rumors begin.