On Monday night, Jay Leno and Jimmy Fallon addressed the rampant speculation about the future of “The Tonight Show” the way any of us would: by performing a song from “West Side Story.”
In an amusing and effective display of unity, the two hosts teamed up for a duet that aired at 12:36 a.m., just as “The Tonight Show” was switching over to “Late Night."
It began with Leno walking backstage, where he was swarmed by reporters (apparently security in Burbank isn’t what it used to be). Cut to New York, where Fallon sat in his 30 Rock dressing room, looking forlorn next to a pile of newspapers. As he scanned the headlines, Fallon’s phone rang: It was “Tonight Show host” calling.
“Hey kid, how you holding up?” Leno asked.
After an awkward but heartfelt back-and-forth (sample dialogue: “We’re still friends, right?”), the two men launched into a slightly modified version of “Tonight,” the Broadway show tune originally sung by star-crossed lovers Tony and Maria.
“Tonight, tonight, who’s gonna host ‘Tonight’? Is it gonna be Jimmy or Jay? Tonight, tonight, where will they tape ‘Tonight’? New York? Will it stay in L.A.?” Jimmy wondered.
“Tonight, tonight, my ratings were all right. Twenty years and I’m still in first place. Tonight, tonight, I’ve got Fox on the line. Or maybe I could take over for Dave?” Leno replied in song.
It was a smart way for Leno and Fallon to address the perceived rivalry between them, but it didn’t do much to dampen the rumors that Fallon is poised to take over “Tonight” in the very near future.
In fact, the ending suggested a peaceful transition may already be underway. As the duet came to a close, a stage manager fetched Fallon from his dressing room. “Jimmy, it’s time,” she said.
“I’ve got to go, Jay,” Fallon told Leno.
“Do a good show, Jimmy,” he responded.
“I will. And Jay? Thanks.”