NBC has now signed, sealed, and almost delivered its next host of The Tonight Show, Jimmy Fallon, who has the contract in hand to prove he'll take the biggest promotion in late night—even if nobody really knows when he'll actually take it. Both The Hollywood Reporter's Kim Masters and the New York Times's Bill Carter—the two preeminent journalists on the late-night wars—reported Tuesday night that Fallon closed a deal with NBC to carve out a future for him as Jay Leno's successor.
Though we don't know exactly what Fallon's "contract extension" entails, Carter insists, we know that The Tonight Show is understood to be a part of it—and that Fallon won't be up for grabs in 2015 when his current contract ends. On Friday Deadline reported that Fallon fired his longtime manager "while the talk show host's team was in preliminary conversations with NBC about a new contract for him."
All of this leaves TV watchers with two important questions, one of which may get answered before the other. The actually important one: When will Fallon finally relieve the world of Jay Leno? The prevailing theories have him taking over the 11:35 time slot either in February, coinciding with NBC's all-out coverage of the Winter Olympics in Sochi—or else in September 2014, when Leno's contract is up. The latter would jive with the report from TMZ that has Leno staying in the spot until his deal runs out given the "ENORMOUS financial hit" for NBC if they oust him before his time is up. Also, Masters reported that "producer Lorne Michaels is said to prefer to give Fallon a little more time" than the February start date. You know, practice.
Then, of course, there's the question of when NBC is actually going to fess up to their Tonight Show plans. West Side Story parodies and forced award-show awkwardness can only placate an audience for so long.