As Jimmy Fallon wraps up his second week as the new “Tonight Show” host it is fun and informative to take a look back over the amazing 60 year history of the show. Sixty years for darn near anything in the human experience is a stunning accomplishment, but in television it is virtually unprecedented.
It started with NBC in New York City with Steve Allen as the first host from 1954 to 1957. Then in 1957 there was a brief hiccup when show changed its name and to “Tonight! America After Dark.” It was unmemorable and lasted about six months before Jack Paar came aboard as the new host of the by then popular NBC TV talk show.
Jack Paar remained at the helm until 1962 when the undisputed king of the Tonight Show the late great Johnny Carson took over. Ten years later in 1972 the decision was made and Johnny Carson and the tonight show made its historic shift from New York City to “Beautiful Downtown Burbank,” California.
Johnny Carson reigned supreme over late night television in general and obviously “The Tonight Show” in particular for 30 years. In 1992 Johnny handed the baton to Jay Leno. Everyone was deeply saddened to see Johnny bid farewell and for awhile Leno had little option but to work in the shadow of the great one.
However, Leno proved himself but 17 years later in 2009 Jay “retired” and Conan O’Brien became captain of the Tonight Show ship. This resulted in some not totally pleasant wrangling and by 2010 Leno was back where he remained until early in 2014.
Now it is back to New York City starring Jimmy Fallon. I have watched a few of Fallon’s shows and I genuinely welcome him to the task. This is in no way any disrespect to Leno who I have thoroughly enjoyed for his entire tenure and who frankly I have come to know and see regularly as a Burbank neighbor. But that said there is a certain enjoyable freshness that has come along with Fallon. I salute him and wish him decades of success.
As for the move back to New York City, well as a Burbank resident it has been a little difficult to see over one hundred a fifty local jobs walk away. But then one could also observe that the child (the Tonight Show) has finally come home. Besides, when I find this upsetting I just look at the weather map and rejoice that while the Tonight Show may have moved I am staying right here in “Beautiful Downtown Burbank” where the current temperature is hovering somewhere around the upper sixties to lower seventies. Then again NYC does have some amazing roasted nuts. Welcome aboard Mr. Fallon.
Copyright 2014 Ron Irwin