The year 2013 will go down as a big one for late-night TV, and not because Saturday Night Live was shamed into hiring a black woman for its cast – though that was pretty big. Decades from now, in Theory and Practice of Post-11 PM Programming classes at USC and NYU, aspiring network execs will study 2013 as the year NBC decided to move The Tonight Show back to New York. After months of speculation, a slew of news stories, a handful of NBC denials, a ton of late-night jokes, and one Jay Leno–Jimmy Fallon duet, NBC announced in April it had set a date for Leno’s latest departure from Tonight, and officially named Fallon his latest replacement, adding that The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon will be based in New York City, where the long-running franchise originated.
Tonight’s return to New York drastically changes the late-night landscape. With Tonight at 30 Rock, Lorne Michaels for the first time will have charge of the network’s flagship late-night show as well as Saturday Night Live and Late Night — which SNL alum Seth Meyers will host — and can orchestrate an “event” for a guest across all three programs. NBC can also throw in a Today appearance; it’s also housed at 30 Rock. Lorne Michaels Packaging already has been in effect across the other two NBC late-night programs, say industry navel gazers who note how many SNL guests this season also appeared on Fallon’s Late Night. “It’s pretty much been 100% over the last year and a half,” insisted one. “Now he’ll have more power because [Fallon] will be in a better time slot. You’re talking about somebody who has a big series of stages” to offer, the pundit said.
NBC Broadcast chairman Ted Harbert says the network is working to streamline guest booking across its various celebrity-centric New York-based shows which, starting in the fall, will include a Meredith Vieira daytime talk show. “Every single person selling something comes to New York – it’s part of the swing,” he said. “I don’t think you’ll find anybody who only does late-night in Los Angeles and that’s their promotional tour.”