A choked-up Jay Leno on Thursday night said his final goodbye to his viewing audience — a loyal base who kept “The Tonight Show” No. 1 in the ratings season after season.
The show’s popularity also cast a warm glow on the greater Burbank-Glendale area. Not only did it provide production jobs locally, it also drew tourists and their generous spending ways to our communities week in and week out for more than 40 years. We were enormously fortunate that Johnny Carson brought the show, which originated in New York, to “Beautiful Downtown Burbank” in 1972 and that it thrived here for as long as it did.
New York’s loss was our gain and now, although it is against our collective will, we are returning the favor. On Feb. 17, Jimmy Fallon will take over as the show’s new host, broadcasting the late night talk show from Studio 6B at NBC Studios in New York City.
Since its arrival here, the show has been a big boon to the area and its hosts generously lent their support to local causes. In his tenure as the host, the affable and engaged Leno has been a presence at numerous events. Most memorably, perhaps, have been his stints as the grand marshal of the annual Love Ride, the motorcycle event that raises funds for area charities. Hopefully he’ll continue to be in our midst for years to come.
On Thursday, Leno said he was “the luckiest guy in the world” to have been a part of “The Tonight Show” for the past 22 years. We believe those of us who call this area home richly shared in some of that luck.
But times and fortunes change; it’s time for us to part ways with the show. So, it’s sad to say farewell to the show, as it feels as though we are losing a piece of our very identity. Although it’s true that many other fine productions continue here that also tape before live audiences, none are quite the institution that “The Tonight Show” has become. You’re right, Jay. It’s hard to say goodbye.