NEW YORK, NY – Rivalry? What rivalry? Late night talk show hosts Jay Leno and Jimmy Fallon, who’ve been pitted against each other as rumors fly that NBC is mulling a changing of the guard, made light of their situation Monday night — by belting a show tune together.
“Tonight, tonight, who’s going to host ‘Tonight’? Is it going to be Jimmy or Jay?” the pair sang in a parody of “Tonight” from the Broadway musical “West Side Story.”
The rumor mill has Fallon, 38, taking over 62-year-old Leno’s job as host of NBC’s “Tonight Show” — and Leno has responded with pointed barbs at his employer that have seen his ratings rise.
“In the news, they say I’m replacing you, they think that I can woo, the demo,” Fallon sang.
Leno responsed: “So the network says, here’s an idea: pack your bags, take a hike, NBC-ya!”
We’re still friends, right?
The carefully choreographed bit capped a day-long NBC promotional blitz that included a 30-second teaser video on Fallon’s YouTube channel.
A beleaguered Leno exits the “Tonight Show” set in Los Angeles at the beginning of the four-minute skit, hounded by reporters asking him if the rumors of his demise are true.
Meanwhile in New York, a pensive-looking Fallon — surrounded by speculative press clippings in his dressing room — gets a call from Leno. “Hey kid, how you holding up?”
“Okay, I guess,” Fallon answers. “You?”
“I’ll live. I’ve been through this before you know,” Leno deadpans. “I’ve got to admit I’m getting sick of all this.”
Looking for reassurance, Fallon says: “Jay, can I ask you something? We’re still friends, right?”
Leno: “Of course we’re still friends.”
Cue the orchestra
Confidence restored, Fallon breaks into song — quickly followed by Leno — with all the subtlety of, well, a show tune.
Although the bit had the apparent blessing of the network, there were no sacred cows.
Leno brags of his ratings, now at a seven-week high, even as NBC may be plotting to usher him off the air in favor of Fallon’s appeal to younger demographic groups.
Talk about another network that might want to pick up a successful talk show host? Sure.
“I’ve got Fox on the line,” Leno croons.
Maybe the comedians hate each other. Maybe they don’t.
The entertainment press sure likes to pit the funnymen against each other.
But doesn’t music make things better?
“Tonight, tonight, why do they say we fight?” the pair sang.
“I like you. You you like me. We’re okay.”
A bit of controversy
Rumors about Fallon supplanting Leno have been swirling since mid-March, when the New York Times’ Bill Carter reported that the network has made a commitment to Fallon in regards to him succeeding Leno.
Yet according to Carter, Fallon’s future as the new host of “Tonight” isn’t a done deal as much as it’s an understanding.
“There’s no deal yet for the timetable of this, they have an understanding,” Carter told CNN’s Jake Tapper last month “I’m sure Jay knows about the understanding. But Jay has a contract that goes until the fall of next year. I think from Jay’s point of view, he will work until they tell him to stop. That’s the way he is; that’s the kind of guy he is.”
Still, the idea of Fallon getting the show isn’t a surprise — at least, not as much as the report that the show will move back to New York from California.
“There’s a lot of reasons for it — I think they all feel that the energy of New York helps Fallon,” Carter said. “But also you have Lorne Michaels, who’s the producer of the show, and has always been close to Jimmy and he’s of course New York-based.
“And then you have the band, The Roots, and The Roots are a Philadelphia-based band, and some of the guys I think still commute to New York, and they’re very important to that show and I don’t think they wanted to lose them.”
If the musical skit proves anything, Leno and Fallon haven’t lost their sense of humor under the scrutiny of the future of the “Tonight Show.”
They even couched it with a dose of reality.
In a pseudo-operatic climax, the pair asks:
“Tonight, tonight, who cares who hosts Tonight?
“People just watch online the next day.”
By Ed Payne
The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2013 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.