NEW YORK — On the walls of Jimmy Fallon's office are photos. Lots of photos. Of his 2007 marriage to film producer Nancy Juvonen. Of their 6-month-old daughter, Winnie. Of his mom and dad as newlyweds. Fallon points them all out to a visitor proudly.
But the dominant photo is a portrait of Johnny Carson, aglow in front of his "Tonight Show" drapes.
"I look at that every day," says Fallon, "and just go, 'Yeah — it's SO fun!'"
Already Fallon is immersed in this kind of fun. For five years he hosted NBC's "Late Night," a job he relinquished only days ago. And now he's looking ahead to the Big Show, "The Tonight Show," where Monday, at the special time of 12 midnight EST, he retrieves Carson's mantle — back in New York after 42 years in Los Angeles.
"It's giant! It's a big TV moment!" says Fallon. "Even if it wasn't me, I would tune in to watch."
A Manhattan home base perfectly suits its new host, a consummate New Yorker, while bringing it under the same hallowed roof (NBC's Rockefeller Center headquarters) as "Late Night" and "Saturday Night Live," other jewels in the crown of Lorne Michaels, its new executive producer.
It also allows "Tonight" to make a clean break from its turbulent post-Carson era under Jay Leno (and, fleetingly, Conan O'Brien), when the Carson-bequeathed formula of jokes, celebs and chitchat was, too often, upstaged by behind-the-scenes soap opera.
Leno was consistently the late-night ratings winner, but never won much respect from the public, critics, or even his own network, which twice sent him packing from "Tonight."