Let's calm down, folks. The Los Angeles Times reports that Burbank mayor Dave Golonski jokingly will go on a hunger strike if "The Tonight Show" leaves Burbank:
[Golonski]said he is drafting a letter to NBC executives asking them to reconsider the plans to move “The Tonight Show” from Burbank to New York.That's fine and good. But others are turning this into a bigger story -- bugging L.A. mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, strangely, or touting New York production tax breaks allegedly being put into place solely to steal away "The Tonight Show."
“We would be extremely disappointed if the plans to move ‘The Tonight Show’ go through,” Golonski said by phone. “We would like it to remain in Burbank and the region.”
But here's the thing: This is a case of Jimmy Fallon simply not moving. He's been doing a show in New York. He'll continue to do a show in New York. That show's title will change from "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" to "Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon." But other than the title switching coasts, nothing is actually physically moving. Jay Leno will still be in Los Angeles, and will very likely host another TV show -- but again, just under a different title (and perhaps for a different network).
There's good reason that Fallon isn't moving to L.A.: NBC tried that with Conan O'Brien -- made O'Brien and his entire team uproot their lives and move to Los Angeles. That didn't quite work out as planned.
I would like to remind Golonski that Burbank already lost "The Tonight Show" -- to Universal City, where Conan hosted the show. Where was Golonski and his wacky fake hunger strike then? If anything, Burbank lucked out: Thanks to the last late night debacle, when Leno (a creature of habit who never left the former NBC lot) took over "The Tonight Show" again, that meant the title returned to Burbank. But it's living on borrowed time: NBC doesn't own its old Burbank lot anymore, it simply leases the production space for Leno. And once Leno goes, even if "The Tonight Show" stayed in Southern California, I can pretty much guarantee it would move to Universal City, where the rest of NBC now resides.
That being said, I was joking today that Leno may never leave his stage -- it may just be a different network that starts paying the rent. But the more that I think about it, that may be a real possibility. So Burbank, you may be losing "The Tonight Show," but you'll always have Jay Leno -- for better or for worse.
Meanwhile, I'm just making an educated guess here, but should Fallon take over "The Tonight Show," I'm pretty sure NBC would move the "Late Night" franchise to Los Angeles (but again, to Universal City -- perhaps even at CityWalk. Sorry, Burbank). That bi-coastal model has worked for NBC since 1982, and it's something CBS now emulates.
Meanwhile, Hollywood.com asked me to comment on where Leno's displaced audience might go once he leaves "The Tonight Show." This is what I told them:
Michael Schneider of TV Guide Magazine, lends his expertise on the subject to Hollywood.com: "In this fragmented TV world, if Leno leaves The Tonight Show, his audience would likely be spread far and wide — it's unlikely one show would be the beneficiary."
"If Letterman outlasts Leno, he'd pick up some of those viewers. Some might stick around to check out Fallon or try Kimmel, but others will likely move on to news shows, syndicated repeats or even their DVR," Schneider adds. "If Arsenio [Hall]'s still on the air at that point (he launches this fall), he could very well pick up a chunk of Leno's audience. But in the end, once Leno's show goes away, his audience may choose another, powerfully seductive late-night competitor: Sleep."