NBC has made it official. Former Today executive producer Jim Bell has been named executive in charge and showrunner for The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, effective immediately. As Deadline reported Monday, Bell had been in talks for the position in light of producer Mike DiCenzo’s decision to leave the program after 10 years in late-night. As expected, Tonight Show producers Katie Hockmeyer and Gerard Bradford, both valued members of Fallon’s production team, will stay on.
Bell segues from his most recent position as 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, and successfully launched the fourth hour of the morning news program.
The Bell hire mirrors 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. Tonight Show is still No.1 in the demo for the season by a slim margin.
As NBC points out, The Tonight Show and Today were created by the same person, Pat Weaver, and both “remain an essential part of NBC’s DNA.”
Bell has won multiple Sports and News Emmys and a Peabody Award. He has worked on 12 Olympics, every one since the 1992 Barcelona Games with NBC and the last four as executive producer.
Hockmeyer, Bradford and DiCenzo took the reins of The Tonight Show in 2016, with Hockmeyer in charge of production and Bradford and DiCenzo leading creative. Hockmeyer, who is expected to go on a maternity leave soon, will continue in her current duties. Among other things, she spearheaded the “Fallon 5” episodes that aired during the most recent Olympics.
Bradford, who co-penned with DiCenzo Slow Jam The News Featuring President Obama among other signature Tonight Show bits, and Hockmeyer have been with Fallon since before the 2009 launch of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, transitioning with him to The Tonight Show.
From Universal Television and Broadway Video, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon is executive produced by Lorne Michaels. Jim Bell serves as Executive in Charge. Katie Hockmeyer and Gerard Bradford produce. The Tonight Show tapes before a live studio audience from Studio 6B in 30 Rockefeller Center.