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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And now finally this hour, the latest dispatch in the late night TV wars. It's about the venerable "Tonight Show" on NBC, which is hosted by Jay Leno out of Burbank, California.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE TONIGHT SHOW")

JAY LENO: This is kind of scary. Scientists say they're getting closer and closer to being able to do "Jurassic Park"-style cloning of extinct species. Imagine that? Things that once thought to be extinct could now be brought back from the dead. So there's hope for NBC. It could turn around.]>

SIEGEL: Well, according to Bill Carter of The New York Times, the real-life turnaround plan for "The Tonight Show" is to move it back to its original home...

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "LATE NIGHT WITH JIMMY FALLON")

(CHEERS, APPLAUSE)

JIMMY FALLON: Great New York City crowd. Welcome, everybody, to "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon."

SIEGEL: ...and to make Jimmy Fallon the host. Well, Bill Carter joins us now from New York City. Bill Carter, first of all, two questions. Number one, why Jimmy Fallon? And when?

BILL CARTER: Well, I think Jimmy Fallon has been set up to be the successor, now, for awhile. He's been in the job four years, and they're very excited by his ability to bring in a range of talents. I think there's no surprise that he's the successor. I think the surprise is New York.

SIEGEL: Aha.

CARTER: But I also think the "when" is still a little undecided. I would imagine it will be some time mid- to late 2014.

SIEGEL: And what is the thinking about moving this show back to New York? After all, Steve Allen, Jack Paar and originally, Johnny Carson did the show from New York City.

CARTER: Yeah. I think there's a sense that Fallon is a New York act. I mean, he's known for "Saturday Night Live," more than anything else. His producer, Lorne Michaels, I believe probably would be able to stay with the show, then. And I think they really think that's a good combination. And I think there's an energy in New York that they like, and I just think they're looking for a new way to do the show. I think they're going to try to expand the show, in some way, make it more of a variety show to play to his talents because I do think - there's a conviction, at NBC, that you've got to do something new in late night. This format, which has been the same for 60 years, is going to have to change.

SIEGEL: Yeah. Here is a snippet of Jimmy Fallon performing with Justin Timberlake; their routine, the "History of Rap." This is the "History of Rap Part 4."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "LATE NIGHT WITH JIMMY FALLON")

JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE: (Singing) I like the way they dribble up and down the court.

FALLON: (Singing) Just like I'm the king of the microphone, so is Dr. J and Moses Malone. Fat Boys...

SIEGEL: Mind you, that's a tiny bit of a long routine in which Jimmy Fallon dances and raps - and I guess you can call it singing, too. This was shown to me on YouTube. I gather, part of the idea of Jimmy Fallon is, he's somebody people will watch the next day.

CARTER: Exactly. That's part of it. He appeals to that generation that uses social media. He uses Twitter to get comedy bits from his audience. And as, you know, he connects with that audience. He has a laptop open on his desk. He's also a range of talent - like, he sings; he dances; he did that extremely funny bit with Michelle Obama as well, very recently. And I think there's a sense that this is a new way to do the show, not just a standup comedian who's going to tell jokes.

SIEGEL: Sounds like a pretty big deal to move a program from one coast to the other, in order for it to be built around the host, around Jimmy Fallon. That's making him the franchise, in that case.

CARTER: It is. That's the big deal. He's going to be the franchise. I think they're a little concerned that ABC has moved Jimmy Kimmel into the time period, and Jimmy is young and does well on the Internet, and has a great YouTube following. I think they realize, this is a future move. They may take a bit of a loss because Jay is still winning. Jay does very well still, and especially because his network is doing very poorly - as he points out every night. So it's going to be a risk for them, and they may suffer some losses in the short term, hoping that in the long term, they have the right guy.

SIEGEL: Is the way that this story has leaked out - so far, unconfirmed - is this a bit of everybody with a late night show take one step forward not so fast, Jay Leno?

(LAUGHTER)

CARTER: No. I think Jay knew for a long time that this contract might be his last because they removed him once before, and had to bring him back. And it's been a slow progress to say, we need to get a new generation in there. I mean - you know, literally, Jay could be Jimmy's dad. So you really have to think about the future. I do think NBC has to make a move, but it would be nice if it was smoothly done.

SIEGEL: Well, Bill Carter, thanks for talking with us about it.

CARTER: Nice to be with you, Robert.

SIEGEL: Bill Carter - who was talking about what he says will be the move of "The Tonight Show" back to New York City, with Jimmy Fallon as the host, in a couple of years - covers the television industry for The New York Times.

(MUSIC

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

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