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Jay Leno’s leaves The Tonight Show- this time, for real

Rob Gilmore

Jay Leno has hosted The Tonight Show for 22 years. He will retire spring 2014, with Jimmy Fallon as his replacement.

Jay Leno is leaving The Tonight Show after 22-year run

Jay Leno is leaving as host of the popular Tonight Show, and he isn’t missing the opportunity to take another swipe at the NBC executives who axed him, according to CNN.

Jay Leno will finish his 22-year run as host of the Tonight Show, with Jimmy Fallon as his replacement in spring 2014.  “I just have one request of Jimmy. We’ve all fought, kicked and scratched to get this network up to fifth place, okay? Now we have to keep it there.” he deadpanned. “Jimmy, don’t let it slip into sixth. We’re counting on you.”

Jay Leno is 62 years old now, and he represents a much more traditional form of hosting, according to the New York Times.  He’s known for his “Las Vegas-style comedy,” and Fallon, at only 38 years old, incorporates the web and social media into his act, which is more appealing to an increasingly younger audience.

According to a statement by NBC, the Tonight Show will be returning to its original home in 30 Rock in New York, from Leno’s base of Los Angeles.  When the show began in 1954, the original Tonight Show introduced a new era of television.  “It is only fitting that as ‘The Tonight Show’ returns to our state, it will be headlined by New York’s own native son and resident, Jimmy Fallon,” said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. 

Jay Leno has been expected to leave the Tonight Show for some time now, and Fallon’s appointment is an expected one as he has hosted Late Night successfully for four years. 

Leno first exited the Tonight Show in 2009 after 17 years as host.  His early retirement was controversial at the time, since Leno’s ratings were high as NBC executives forced him to hand over the reigns to Conan O’Brien.  Leno was moved to prime time with his own program, The Jay Leno Show, in the fall of 2009.  When that brought dismal ratings, NBC decided to put Leno back in charge of the Tonight Show at the start of 2010.  O’Brien went on to start his own show on TBS.

Even as NBC executives continued to demonstrate their lack of faith in Leno’s longevity, he continued to perform well, as The Tonight Show rose above other shows in its time slot.  At the end of March, The Tonight Show hit a seven-week high in total viewers, with 3.52 million people watching.

Jimmy Fallon will have some mighty big shoes to fill.

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