The last 22 years have brought their fair share of monologues, skits, and television comedy, but the time has finally come for Jay Leno to make his final bow. The 63-year-old host of “The Tonight Show” will ride off into the sunset on Feb. 6, leaving behind a legacy that will last well beyond his years. Young “Late Show” host Jimmy Fallon is waiting in the “Tonight Show” bullpen, currently slated to take the reins of America’s number one talk show.
Historically speaking, Leno’s attempts at passing the torch have been less than successful. Who can forget the highly controversial debacle of 2010, when Leno’s hesitance to leave his thrown led to the NBC ousting of Conan O’Brien? This time around, however, feels quite different.
Leno’s retirement has passed beneath the radar of many members of a younger generation. In 2010, the natural born comic’s departure was greatly publicized, and television viewers lamented on a large scale, reminiscing about the lengthy history of late night memories. On the contrary, Leno’s upcoming “second retirement” feels rather un-momentous, and current airings of his program seem almost un-celebratory of his successful career. Being that this is the case, one must ponder to what extent Leno’s image has been tarnished by his past controversy.
The current late night kingpin has also been singing a different tune from that of his 2010 ousting. Leno claims that in 2010 he was “told to leave”, where as today he is being “asked to leave”. Be that as it may, it would appear that Leno does not really have a say in the matter. The global consumer is evolving, and younger generations do not have the time, nor the desire to sit through an entire Jay Leno led episode of late night television. Instead, young people are products of the Twitter age, often electing to skip ahead to the golden nugget skits that are easily shared via social media and that take up only minutes of their time. For this new breed of viewers, NBC has offered the younger, hipper, and livelier Fallon.
The future “Tonight Show” host is everything that his predecessor is not. He dances, sings, acts, and is backed by a hip-hop house band that oozes “cool” in The Roots. After all, what 20-somethings are going to tune in to view a 63-year-old Leno interview a 65-year-old Billy Crystal? But on the whole, it almost appears that the lack of enthusiasm over Leno’s memorial career is attributed to more than his being antiquated. Instead, the entire ordeal gives off the slightest aroma of bitterness, perhaps from a younger generation that is anxious for a new face, or perhaps from one that realizes that we have been here before, and are just plain ready to move on.