The closing panels of yesterday’s NBC day at the Television Critics Association (TCA) winter press tour were meetings with the new hosts of NBC’s iconic late-night programs. Jimmy Fallon was first up, as new host of The Tonight Show. The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon will premiere Feb. 17, and air at midnight ET during that initial week, following NBC’s Winter Olympics coverage. The show will move to its regular air time — 11:35pm ET — starting Feb. 24.
Also on Feb. 24, Seth Meyers moves from Saturday Night Live to his new gig, replacing Fallon as host of Late Night. Late Night With Seth Meyers airs at 12:35am ET Monday through Friday. Meyers appeared on the final TCA panel of the day.
At his panel, Fallon announced that his first guest would be Will Smith, with musical guest on the first show U2.
“We were trying to get [U2] for a long time,” Fallon said. “Will has been a guest on our show before. When I first started, I tried to get U2 as a guest, and they didn’t want to tell me, but at the time, they had a secret thing with Letterman. They were doing a week on Letterman. So I couldn’t get them.”
But he’s got them now, and Fallon also said that the first three weeks of The Tonight Show are booked.
In Meyers’ panel, the new host said that his first guest will be his former SNL colleague Amy Poehler.
“Our first guest is going to be Amy Poehler, and she’s basically Bono’s common law wife now,” Meyers quipped, referencing Poehler’s Golden Globes hosting gig.
Fallon also addressed some elements of The Tonight Show that are changing. Notably, the show is going back to its original New York City home, and there is a subtle but important change in the title, from “with” to “starring.” The word “starring” in the title has not been used since Johnny Carson retired from the show in 1992.
“I was looking through the old logos when we were picking out our logos and stuff,” Fallon said, “and we decided on a full moon because I thought that would be very iconic. I think not since The Honeymooners has anyone used a full moon. They always offer us crescents and little stars and things like that. And I go, ‘The full moon is the one. That’s the jam.’ You see that, and you’re like, ‘Ah, full moon. Something crazy is going to happen or something.’ … so we were looking at the different logos, and I was, ‘Well, it was The Tonight Show Starring it was always ‘Starring Jack Paar, ‘Starring Johnny Carson.’ Then Carson moved it to L.A., and it was ‘Starring Johnny Carson.’ Then when Jay took it over, no one talked about it, but all of a sudden it was ‘with.’ And it’s fine that it’s ‘with.’ But ‘with’ is I mean, this ‘starring,’ … it’s show business. It’s glamorous. It’s Hollywood. It’s kind of fun. I like ‘starring.’ … It’s an homage, a little tip of the cap a little bit to the origins of the show. I thought it would be perfect.”
Fallon also talked about moving the show to New York.
“For me, it kind of wasn’t a real option. I mean, I was born and raised in New York. I live in New York with my wife, and we now have a little 6-month-old baby, and she’s very cute. And so when I talked to NBC I just said, ‘I think New York.’ I already talked with Lorne about it, Lorne Michaels, and I said, ‘We should bring it back.’ It could be a good I mean, it’s been out [in L.A.] for 40 something years. It started in New York. Why not bring it back to New York? What’s going to happen? What’s the worst that can happen? It’s just a beautiful city. I think of New York, I think of nighttime. I just think it’s the perfect place, where it should be. I think of the lights and Times Square and Broadway and nightlife and the excitement and the glitz and the glamour of all that is The Tonight Show. I feel like booking-wise, it’s never been a problem for us. We’ve had the President of the United States on our show. I mean, you can’t get bigger than that.”
Meyers was asked about taking over the legacy of Late Night and following in the footsteps of David Letterman, Conan O’Brien and Jimmy Fallon.
“It’s certainly a big thing to be stepping into,” Meyers said. “On the same note, though, Weekend Update was a big thing to step into. SNL was a big thing to step into. I think I’ve found over the years, if you get too hung up on the legacy of what you are taking over, it gets in the way a little bit of doing the work. So our goal is just to try to do the funniest thing we can every night and get better each time out.”
Late Night doesn’t have near the legacy that The Tonight Show does, and earlier in the day, at the NBC executive session, NBC Entertainment Chairman Robert Greenblatt talked about Jay Leno’s longtime influence on the show, and announced that Billy Crystal — who had been Leno’s first guest in 1992 — will also be Leno’s last Tonight Show guest. On Feb. 3, Fallon will be a guest with Leno in a sort of “passing of the torch” moment.
Greenblatt also had a fond farewell, but not necessarily goodbye, for outgoing Tonight Show host Jay Leno.
“I want to say a few words about Jay,” said Greenblatt. “I have to tell you, this network has been incredibly fortunate to have had a talent like Jay on our team since 1992. He’s kept the great brand of The Tonight Show virtually No. 1 for his entire run. He’s been a fixture at this company and in people’s bedrooms for over two decades. He’s written and produced thousands of monologues that, for millions of people, summed up the news and crazy events of the day. He’s interviewed countless celebrities, ranging from several presidents of the United States to one very contrite Hugh Grant, and he’s done it all with respect and good humor. It is no exaggeration to say that Jay Leno is the hardest-working man in television, the very definition of a team player, and to those who know him personally and I’m happy now to include myself in that group he’s truly one of the nicest and most decent people in this business.
“As he told me recently, NBC has really been his only home, so I’m very much hoping we’ll enter into a new relationship with him after The Tonight Show and keep his home here at NBC.”
NBC also released the list of Jay Leno’s guests during his final week on The Tonight Show, the week of Feb. 3-6:
Feb. 3: Jimmy Fallon; Betty White
Feb. 4: Matthew McConaughey; Charles Barkley; musical guest Lyle Lovett
Feb. 5: Sandra Bullock; Blake Shelton
Feb. 6: Jay Leno’s final show will find him joined by Billy Crystal and Garth Brooks