Making months of speculation official, it is being widely reported that NBC will announce today (at a press conference scheduled noon-ish) that Jimmy Fallon will succeed Conan O’Brien as host of Late Night.
It’s a brilliant, brilliant move. For Jimmy Fallon. For the rest of the parties involved, I’m not so sure. Granted, Conan O’Brien himself proved that an underrated host could succeed wildly. (As I wrote a few years back when Jimmy Kimmel launched, hosts the world over owe O’Brien a huge debt for lowering the bar of expectations.)
But O’Brien was someone whom few outside Simpsons fans knew at all, and even those who liked his writing hadn’t seen him before a camera. Fallon is a known quantity—just known for something else, reading scripted material and doing characters, and the marketplace’s verdict on that work is mixed, judging from his post-SNL career. Of course it’s entirely possible that Lorne Michaels and the bigs at NBC have seen things in him that we haven’t been privy to, but the rest of us will just have to wait. Does the move make any sense to you?