After 22 Years, Leno Bids Farewell To 'The Tonight Show' - KMSP-TV

After 22 Years, Leno Bids Farewell To 'The Tonight Show'

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Burbank, CA -

From Phil Shuman:

Old School versus New School

Standing out in the rain hoping for a last minute audience ticket to the last show of the Jay Leno Tonight Show era isn't exactly a ton of fun, but it didn't dampen the spirits of a small number of fans gathered on Bob Hope Drive in Burbank today, across the street from Johnny Carson Park.  

I visited with folks from Southern California, all the way to Canada, who were loyal tonight show fans, who were there even though they were told that this last show was for invited guests, friends, family, staffers , and other VIP's.  They weren't just fans of Leno, they were fans of Carson, maybe even Conan OBrien, and were willing to keep an open mind about Jimmy Fallon taking over the franchise at the (relatively) tender age of 39. In a ''fragmented'' audience with Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert taking viewer after viewer, and that little electronic monster called the ''internet'' taking even more  eyeballs away from broadcast TV shows, keeping an institution like the ''Tonight Show '' relevant and watched  is a challenge.

Personally, I think Fallon is more than up to that challenge, but it's less about him and more about whether younger viewers (18 to 49) are interested in watching, or watching on DVR, an 11:30 pm show. Is it hip and cool enough? I sure hope so. Meantime, as I write this I' m watching the big white tent for the post Leno finale party go up in the parking lot of the former NBC complex, now all but abandoned and renamed '' Burbank Studios'. Check out my interview with Burbank Mayor Emily Gabel-Luddy, who talks about what the loss of the Tonight Show means to the  self proclaimed ''media capital of the world'' and how they're replacing some 165 lost Tonight Show staffer jobs with more than 300 new jobs for DC Comics, moving into those studios at Olive and Alameda, where, by the way, I spent almost 14 great years of my (younger) life working for Channel Four News one floor above the Tonight Show studio. Kinda strange to see the ""NBC" logos replaced by those ''Burbank Studios'' signs.  And they call it progress. 


(FOX 11 / AP) Jay Leno said farewell to "The Tonight Show" once before, but that turned out to be just a rehearsal.

On Thursday, Leno is stepping down for the second and presumably last time, making way for successor Jimmy Fallon in New York. When Leno gave up the venerable show to short-lived host Conan O'Brien in 2009, he did a prime-time NBC comedy series before reclaiming "Tonight" in 2010.

This time, Leno's out the door.

"When we left in `09 we were going to the 10 o'clock show, so there wasn't the same sort of finality to it," said "Tonight" executive producer Debbie Vickers as the program counted down toward its last taping in its Burbank home.

"It's going to be difficult to not come in and do a show every day for our audience who has been so great to Jay. ... And also hard for this group of people (the staff) who have all been together for 22 years," said Vickers, who worked on Johnny Carson's "Tonight" before taking the top job with Leno.

Leno, 63, said he plans to continue playing comedy clubs, indulging his passion for cars and doing such TV work as comes his way - other than hosting on late-night.

"It's been a wonderful job. This is the right time to leave," he said last week, and make way for the next generation.

Fallon, 39, starts his "Tonight" Feb. 17, with NBC hoping he rides the promotional wave of its Winter Olympics coverage the next two weeks.

Billy Crystal was set to help close out Leno's run, the second-longest for a "Tonight" host next to Carson's 30 years. The actor-comedian was Leno's first guest in 1992, and Leno told him he wanted him to be his final one.

Garth Brooks will appear as well, along with surprises being kept under wraps. The 2009 farewell ended with Leno filling the stage with the many children born to the longtime staffers of "Tonight," an indication of the pride Leno takes in being a loyal boss.

How can he top that?

"In the last segment, Jay will say goodbye to our viewers," Vickers said. "He has some closing thoughts he's putting together."

During his 2009 finale, Leno showed some of his favorite comedy bits and made cracks about favorite subjects, including former presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, and NBC, the network that shuffled him around. James Taylor, the only featured celebrity, performed "Sweet Baby James."

Leno's late-night competitors aren't stepping aside for his final bow.

ABC's Jimmy Kimmel, who was harshly critical of Leno when O'Brian lost "Tonight," has the A-list cast of the new film "The Monuments Men," including George Clooney, Matt Damon and Bill Murray.

On CBS, David Letterman's "Late Show" will continue its musical tributes to the upcoming 50th anniversary of The Beatles' appearance on CBS' "The Ed Sullivan Show." Sean Lennon, son of the late John Lennon, will perform a Beatles tune with The Flaming Lips.

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