Rumors have been rampant for a month that NBC is going to replace Tonight Show host Jay Leno with Late Night's Jimmy Fallon when Leno's contract expires in the fall of 2014. Except for a brief gag at the Golden Globes, Fallon and Leno have kept mum about what history suggests will be a tense changing-of-the-guard. That changed — sort of — on Monday night, when the two hosts bridged their back-to-back shows with a musical number addressing the media obsession with their perceived rivalry, and their future jobs (watch above).
This is a clever way for Fallon and Leno to handle their "uncertain fates," says Bill Carter at The New York Times. The lyrics of West Side Story parody "included pretty straight references to the gist of the rumors" — will Tonight move to New York? Will Leno jump to another network? — "but perhaps the most far-fetched lyric came in the final chorus as they harmonized operatically on the line 'Tonight, tonight, who cares who hosts Tonight'?"
The next and final line is the punchline, though — "People just watch online the next day," says Ed Payne at CNN. That kind of "dose of reality" pervades the entire song, but it doesn't answer any of our questions. "If the musical skit proves anything, Leno and Fallon haven't lost their sense of humor under the scrutiny of the future of The Tonight Show."
"I'm guessing this song business was Fallon's idea, because that fool will put anything to music," says Laura Beck at Jezebel. But while the song "neither confirmed nor denied the rumors" about Jimmy "putting Jay Leno out of his misery once and for all," it suggests that this time, "whatever goes down will most likely be an amicable, mutual decision."
I wouldn't be too sure, says Gary Levin at USA Today. "Lest viewers think all was rosy, Leno's opened his monologue an hour earlier by leaving no doubt" about his readiness to leave The Tonight Show after 20 years:
Before we get started, let me say that NBC and I have reached a peaceful, amicable agreement that will be beneficial to both sides.... April Fools! It will never happen.