Bill Carter, who's been on the late-night television beat since Jay Leno outmaneuvered David Letterman to take over "The Tonight Show," reports a new twist in the saga: NBC has made a "commitment," short of a deal, for "Late Night" host Jimmy Fallon to take over the flagship show by fall 2014.
This means that Jay Leno would be out of a job -- a situation he's found himself in before, when he was replaced by Conan O'Brien (who, like Fallon, anchored the 12:35 a.m. "Late Night"). Leno twisted NBC's arm, then, to give him a show at 10 p.m. (threatening to move and bring his legions of fans to another network), and the low ratings of the prime-time show led to O'Brien's low ratings. Leno returned months after his farewell "Tonight Show" appearance.
Leno, who lately has been making news for his sharp critiques of NBC's ratings and executives, is one of the network's few durable stars; he leads the ratings against David Letterman on CBS and the newly-installed Jimmy Kimmel on ABC.