Well, it’s official folks. Jimmy Fallon is taking over The Tonight Show in 2014, and Jay Leno is walking away with a reported $15 million and hopefully never showing his face on NBC again. If you caught that little nugget at the end of the last sentence, I’m clearly harboring some residual negativity from the great Conan/Jay/NBC debacle of 2010. I’m trying really hard to be happy for my beloved Jimmy, but as a Fal Pal, my love for him is turning more into a protective, nurturing behavior, instead of the all-out gleeful and enthusiastic attitude a fan should have.
Let’s back up a bit. In 1998, I fell in love with a dorky looking comedian on Saturday Night Live. Jimmy’s characters and sketches were always hilarious to me (Nick Burns, Jarett’s Room, Pat Sullivan etc.) and I was obsessed. I bought his Bathroom Wall comedy album and listened to it constantly. Like, what 16-year-old girl listens to a comedy CD in her spare time? This girl. He made the presteigous line of photos I had of celebs I loved in my bedroom. To this very day, this picture hangs next to the cast of Friends and Mandy Moore. The last time I was home, I even found a card my friend gave to me for my birthday with my fave crushes at the time.
After SNL, Jimbo went on to his movie career, and while I loved Fever Pitch, let’s be honest – his movies weren’t the best. He kinda disappeared for a while, got married, and in 2009, I was elated to find out he was getting his own talk show. I’ve loved every single episode, every Jacob’s Patience, every hilarious animal moment with Jeff Musial, every game of Cell Phone Shoot Out, and every Slow Jam the News. I’m
not being biased here probably being very biased, but Jimmy has the best, most inventive, creative show on late night TV. Thanks to his SNL background, his show runs more like a variety show with friends that stop by to chat. It’s a fun atmosphere that makes you wish you were in the audience every single night. I once read a quote from him that said something like, “I want to make a show that will make you happy right before you go to sleep.” And that’s exactly what he’s done. You can’t not watch the show and feel anything but joy.
So here’s the problem. As much as I adore him and most definitely cried when he made the official announcement on his show, I can’t help but be worried of what the future holds. I was/am a Conan fan. I’ve watched him since high school, and was naturally excited for him to take over the Tonight Show and move to LA (mainly for selfish reasons, so that I could finally cross off ‘See Conan live’ off my bucket list, which I actually did!). But then it all came crashing down. We all remember it. I, like many other fans, just couldn’t understand the logic behind NBC dropping Conan in just seven months, all because Jay Leno bitched about his 10pm primetime show which was flatlining. Hey buddy, you’re the one who ultimately decided it was time to step down and hand over the keys to the kingdom to Coco. No takesies backsies.
Furthermore, I just don’t find Jay funny. I don’t think a lot of people my age do, because we can’t relate to him. And that reflects on his ratings too – he’s number one in the older demo, which let’s face it, are really the only ones with the Neilsen boxes and watch it live. But since his ratings were high, the only reason Jay would logically walk away from his show is because he wanted to. In fact, NBC was drawing bigger ratings with Conan in early 2010 than they are now with Leno (If you want more info on this, check out this article because I learned a lot from it). Or NBC is completely insane. Which is also accurate. Long gone are the golden days of Must See TV, so at the time, CEO Jeff Zucker did anything he could to try to keep the company afloat. And that included taking a risk with Jay, Conan, and ultimately Jimmy Fallon.
And now here we are three years later. Conan luckily found a home on TBS, Jay is still not funny and is retiring for a second time, and Jimmy gets a new show next year that starts an hour earlier. As proud as I am of the guy who used to sing a song about Troll dolls, I’m afraid this might turn into a bad case of history repeating itself. If NBC execs let Conan go after 16 successful years on their network, who’s to say they won’t do the same to Jimmy who’s been a talk show host for four years? I’m hoping that they’ve learned their lesson since then. With a new CEO at NBC, and Jay hopefully staying in his garage with his cars this time around, there’s a chance this might be Jimmy’s big chance to shine. He deserves it. He’s clearly a good guy, with good intentions, and just wants to make good television. So basically, NBC, please please please do not fuck this up. Learn from your mistakes, and let Jimmy Fallon be the great entertainer he was always meant to be. At least there’s one thing we know for sure when he makes the big transition: we can go to sleep happy – and one hour earlier.