The calendar may have read April 1 when Jay Leno opened his Tonight Show monologue with an April Fool’s crack about his relationship with his employers at NBC, but after midnight, ’twas April 2 when Leno gave Jimmy Fallon the most seamless transition possible in video and in song, dueting with the Late Night host on a parody of West Side Story‘s “Tonight.”
Was it funny? Was it sincere?
Do either of those things matter, when the mere cooperation and statement of this video says so much more?
Leno appeared on Fallon’s show to make this statement, and not the other way around. Ceding control of the message. Handing over the reins. You never saw anything remotely resembling this when NBC attempted to transition from Johnny Carson to Leno, or from Leno to Conan O’Brien. And in the latter case, they had five years to figure that out.
Even the one thing you might be second-guessing — not Fallon’s singing, because he sings quite often on the show and on tour, but about Leno’s singing — NBC’s Late Night social media people claim is legit, too, writing: “Know what you’re thinking, but those are definitely both of their real voices.”
Roll the clip!
So. If you want to read between the lines, it might be helpful to know first what the lines they sang were to each other over their cell phones.
Fallon: “Only you, every night you throw to me, Jay Leno.
In the news, all they do, is say I’m replacing you
They think I can woo the demo.”
Leno: “So the network says, ‘Here’s an idea
Pack your bags, take a hike, N-B-see-ya!'”
Fallon: “Tonight, tonight, who’s gonna host Tonight?
Is it gonna be Jimmy or Jay?
Tonight, tonight, where will they tape Tonight?
In New York? Will it stay in L.A.?”
Leno: “Tonight, tonight, my ratings were all right.
Twenty years and I’m still in first place!
Tonight, tonight, I’ve got FOX on the line
Or maybe I could take over for Dave.”
Both: “Tonight, tonight, why do they say we fight?
I like you, you like me, we’re OK!
Tonight, tonight, who cares who hosts Tonight?
People just watch online the next day!”
So, yeah, that happened. Jokingly or not, the lyrics and sketch suggest 1) that Leno and Fallon remain on good terms, 2) that NBC is willing to let them speak for themselves on this latest round of late-night hosting rumors, 3) that Leno is willing to let NBC know he thinks he can jump to FOX or even CBS after September 2014 when both his and David Letterman’s contracts are up (cannot wait to see/hear Letterman’s reaction to this!), and 4) that for all of the fuss made over NBC wanting to keep its hold on late-night ratings for ages 49 and younger into all of Generation X and the Millennials, the harder truth is we’ve already reached a point in which both generations would rather wait and watch late-night TV in bits and pieces on their own time.
That should catch everyone up.
Who’s the April Fool now?
UPDATED! NBC announced on April 3, 2013, that it’s officially canceling The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in 2014, moving it to New York City’s 30 Rockefeller to become The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. The transition will take place before/after/during the network’s telecast of the Winter Olympics in February.