NBC officially unveiled the timeline it plans for shuffling Jimmy Fallon into late-late night and Conan O’Brien into Jay Leno’s Tonight Show slot, which left Leno playing a cartoon version of a TV critic in disguise (pictured!) at the TV Critics Association tour yesterday.
Jimmy Fallon begins not on TV, but online with nightly mini episodes this fall.
Conan O’Brien will leave his Late Night slot in spring 2009, for Fallon to take over in March or April 2009.
Jay Leno’s final Tonight Show will be Friday, May 29, 2009.
Conan O’Brien’s first Tonight Show will be the following Monday, June 1, 2009.
(Trade coverage via Variety and The Hollywood Reporter, plus the New York Times take here)
Lorne Michaels, who shepherded Fallon on Saturday Night Live and will serve as his executive producer, wants to ease Fallon into the game slowly. Perhaps he thinks letting Fallon experiment online on a nightly basis not only will let him get his hosting feet under him, but also tamper any early criticism of his TV debut. The media and fans alike bashed Conan in his early years, but he grew into the role and then some, becoming NBC’s favorite late-night guy. The network already began construction on Conan’s new West Coast set, and it’s still unclear how many of his writing crew will move west with him. Which means it’s still unclear what kind of show we’ll get with Conan at 11:30/11:35 p.m. And what of Carson Daly? No, really, what of Carson Daly? I’m also not sure this timeline really serves as a vote of confidence for Fallon, either.