(CNN) Outgoing Tonight Show host Jay Leno congratulated his replacement Jimmy Fallon at the start of his opening monologue on Wednesday night while taking another swipe at the NBC executives that are showing him the door.
I just have one request of Jimmy. We've all fought kicked and scratched to get this network up to fifth place okay Now we have to keep it there. he deadpanned. Jimmy don't let it slip into sixth. We're counting on you.
Leno will wrap up his 22 year run as host in spring 2014 with Jimmy Fallon officially signing on as his replacement.
According to a statement from NBC As part of the transition 'The Tonight Show' will be returning to its original home in 30 Rock in New York from Leno's base of Los Angeles.Jimmy Fallon's takeover of The Tonight Show has been inevitable show producer Lorne Michaels told GQ. He's the closest to (Johnny) Carson that I've seen of this generation Michaels said. Fallon who rose to fame as a cast member on Saturday Night Live from 1998 2004 currently hosts the late night talk show Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Pictured Fallon chats with Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte on the show. Here's a look at the other Tonight Show hosts. Comedian and songwriter Steve Allen was the show's first host from 1954 to 1957. His prolific career earned him two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Pictured Allen poses for a promotional portrait 1955. Jack Paar's unpredictable and dramatic presence drew more than 7 million viewers every night between 1957 and 1962. The show was renamed The Jack Paar Show while he was host. Paar is seen here on the set sometime during his stint on the show. Johnny Carson's 30 years as a host on the show made him a talk show icon. Carson who hosted from 1962 to 1992 set the standard for late night show formats and style. Pictured Carson speaks to a guest 1964. Jay Leno starred in The Tonight Show with Jay Leno from 1992 to 2009 then moved to his own primetime show The Jay Leno Show on NBC. After a public controversy over scheduling changes while Conan O'Brien hosted the show in 2009 Leno returned to host The Tonight Show in 2010. Pictured Leno jokes with actor/comedian Jerry Seinfeld 1998. Conan O'Brien hosted the show for seven months and left after NBC announced it would be moving his show to after midnight and Leno's primetime show to The Tonight Show's time slot. Pictured O'Brien on his final show on January 22 2010. Leno returned in March 2010 and is currently the host. Pictured Leno chats with President Barack Obama during a taping October 2012. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Photos 'Tonight Show' hosts Why TV brass hates Leno Hear Leno Fallon belt out duet Why is NBC dumping Jay Leno
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo praised the move saying in a statement on behalf of all New Yorkers that he's pleased to welcome 'The Tonight Show' back to its first home.
When it began in 1954 the original 'Tonight Show' ushered in the modern era of television Cuomo continued. It is only fitting that as 'The Tonight Show' returns to our state it will be headlined by New York's own native son and resident Jimmy Fallon.
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The expectation that Leno would leave NBC's legendary late night program has been building recently and Fallon's appointment isn't surprising in the least. He's had a swift rise to Tonight's chair having hosted Late Night for just four years but Fallon's transition was treated as such a near certainty that both hosts worked the headlines into their nightly routines.
While Fallon initially downplayed the rumors Leno went after his employer on a regular basis. He's compared NBC executives to snakes joked about the network's sagging ratings and kidded that the rumored late night shuffle was like NBC's version of March Madness.
Just two days before the big announcement Fallon and Leno again made light of the reports with a parody of the song Tonight from the musical West Side Story.
With Leno's contract set to expire in fall 2014 industry observers said the move was only a matter of time.
Leno first exited Tonight in 2009 after 17 years as host passing the torch to Conan O'Brien who was then the host of Late Night.
Leno was moved to prime time with his own program The Jay Leno Show in the fall of 2009. But when that brought dismal ratings NBC decided to put Leno back in charge of Tonight at the start of 2010 leaving O'Brien without a job.
The flame haired comedian eventually moved to TBS to host his own show Conan in the 11 p.m. hour but the entire scenario generated ill will toward Leno and NBC. (TBS shares a parent company with CNN.)
Yet as the years went on Leno has proved to be resilient. As NBC's prime time ratings suffered Leno's Tonight Show was still able to rise above the rest in its time slot. At the end of March The Tonight Show hit a seven week high in total viewers with 3.52 million watching.
However NBC was said to be concerned about losing younger viewers to ABC's Jimmy Kimmel whose Jimmy Kimmel Live was moved up to compete with Leno and David Letterman's Late Show at the beginning of 2013.
The more time Jimmy Kimmel is in that slot the more the young audience goes that way the harder it is for (Fallon) to keep that audience one source familiar with the network's thought process told The Hollywood Reporter in March.
At 62 years old Leno represents a more traditional form of hosting as he's known for his Las Vegas style comedy said the New York Times. Fallon 38 regularly incorporates the Web and social media into his act offering a more contemporary and varied brand of entertainment the Times said.
This changing of the guard is one of the most closely watched exercises in pop culture especially as it takes place at one of TV's mainstay productions. Even with its decline in ratings over the years it remains a solid profit center for NBC making between $25 million and $40 million for the network according to The New York Times.
Although it's been on the air for almost 60 years The Tonight Show has had just a handful of regular hosts Steve Allen Jack Paar Johnny Carson Leno and O'Brien.
The Tonight Show isn't what it was during the long tenure of Carson who hosted the show from 1962 until 1992. In those three network times Carson dominated late night TV like nobody before or since. He dominated the ratings and routinely sat down challengers like so many duck targets at a carnival shooting gallery. Joey Bishop Dick Cavett Joan Rivers Pat Sajak they all tried to dethrone the king and they all came up short.
Carson sat behind Tonight's desk for 30 years before passing the torch to Leno and Johnny is still the model against whom all are measured.
Interestingly enough Late Night producer Lorne Michaels who's now executive producer of The Tonight Show has called Fallon the closest thing this generation has to Carson. It appears it's now time for Fallon to show and prove.