Last night on Late Night they kicked off the show with a musical number that joined Jimmy Fallon and his lead-in Jay Leno, the current host of The Tonight Show dueting with the rumored successor. This parody of West Side’s Story’s “Tonight” brought together these two hosts whose names have been so dragged through the news and blogosphere the last few weeks, whose futures have become the subject of much speculation and scrutiny. Leno, from his perch in Burbank, has made no secret of his recent disdain for NBC and its executives; Fallon, like he did during the Leno-Conan controversy three years ago, has done his part to stay out of the fray, trying to stay friendly with everyone and stay as far away from any whispers of backstabbing or plotting as possible. And this sketch goes to show that while Leno might have a considerable beef with NBC brass, he harbors no ill will towards Fallon, and Jimmy, for his part, appreciates all that Jay has done for him.
However, while this bit illustrates that everything may be copacetic between Jay and Jimmy, it also demonstrates why Fallon is so highly regarded and why he’s so quickly being elevated to the top spot. Yes, this is a great piece of television that shows that Leno can still have a great sense of humor about these things and about all things, but by airing on Late Night it only serves to further bolster Fallon and his team’s credentials, once again proving their creativity and passion for the medium, and their keen ability to capitalize on a situation. This was probably the best four minutes either program will air this week, and some of Late Night‘s best work this year (non-Justin Timberlake category), the A+ material on the network’s B show. But the fact that this bit was conceived and produced by the Late Night team and broadcast as part of Fallon’s show offers yet one more reason why Fallon is ready to take over the mantle. It wasn’t quite passing the torch as it was recognizing where the fire is.
Right now, Late Night justs get it. Even Leno agrees.