EXCLUSIVE: The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon is undergoing a major behind-the-scenes change. Producer Mike DiCenzo is leaving NBC’s late-night program. He just confirmed his departure on Twitter. I hear former Today executive producer Jim Bell is in talks to come in as new Tonight Show showrunner.
DiCenzo was part of a producing team of three The Tonight Show/Late Night Jimmy Fallon veterans who were elevated to lead the show in 2016 following the departure of producer-showrunner Josh Lieb.
DiCenzo and Gerard Bradford, who penned Slow Jam The News Featuring President Obama among other signature Tonight Show bits, assumed oversight of the show creative, while Hockmeyer assumed oversight of production. All three had been with Fallon since before the 2009 launch of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, transitioning with him to The Tonight Show. I hear that Bradford and Hockmeyer, both valued members of Fallon’s team, are expected to stay on.
In a long thread, DiCenzo explained why he is leaving The Tonight Show, citing burnout after 10 years in late-night, first on Late Night and then on Tonight Show. “It’s one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever made, and one I’ve been grappling with this year,” he said. I hear DiCenzo, who had been doing showrunner-type duties, informed The Tonight Show team about six months ago of his intention to leave. His exit comes on his 10-year anniversary in NBC late-night; he joined Late Night from The Onion. DiCenzo went on to thank Fallon and the rest of the show’s staff and crew. “The halls of Studio 6B are bursting with kindness, joy, support, and love. I couldn’t have asked for a better home. These people are my family,” DiCenzo wrote. He highlighted two of his ideas that became memorable Tonight Show moments, the Saved By the Bell reunion and “Neil Young sings the Fresh Prince theme.”
Bell is currently President, NBC Olympics Production & Programming, a post he has held since January 2017. He spent seven years (2005-12) as Executive Producer of Today while also juggling Olympic duties before rejoining NBC Sports full-time. He presided over the last stretch of Today morning ratings dominance, which included the controversial ouster of co-host Ann Curry.
A Bell hire would mirror CBS’ move of bringing former CBS This Morning executive producer Chris Licht as Late Show with Stephen Colbert showrunner in 2016 when the late-night program started its current ascend in the ratings after a shaky start. Tonight, which dominated the late-night ratings at the start of Fallon’s tenure, has been running neck and neck with Late Show in the adults 18-49 demographic lately, with the CBS program ahead in viewers, riding the wave of political humor popularity in the era of President Donald Trump.