NBC's The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon is the king of late night talk shows, consistently dominating the competition in ratings and viewership. Unfortunately, however, there have been some major shake-ups on the show recently that could spell trouble for the future of the series. A couple of major players in production of The Tonight Show have jumped ship to pursue other opportunities, and we weren't given any real reasons for their departures. The answer may relate to the most buzzworthy event of the year: the 2016 presidential election.
The 2016 presidential campaign season that has pitted Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton against Republican candidate Donald Trump has been producing scandals and controversies from the very beginning. While those scandals aren't too encouraging to a lot of voters trying to make up their minds, they have provided a lot of killer material for the late night comedians. Hosts like Jimmy Kimmel, who heads up ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live!, and Stephen Colbert, who stars in CBS' The Late Show, have done a lot with the election, providing plenty of commentary, which has ranged from caustic to slapstick. Compared to Kimmel and Colbert, Jimmy Fallon has done minimal coverage of the election for The Tonight Show and the coverage he has considered has not been as pointed as some of the other networks.
We don't know how much or how little the Tonight Show's coverage of the election may have impacted some of the behind-the-scenes shake-ups, but the timing does indicate there may be more going on beyond career ambition as two key players made the decision to leave the series in quick succession. News broke last week that showrunner Josh Lieb was officially leaving The Tonight Show. Producer and writer Gavin Purcell also made the decision to pursue other opportunities, according to THR. Both splits seem amicable; the timing is still somewhat suspect.
All of this said, fans of Jimmy Fallon and The Tonight Show shouldn't start panicking about what the relatively minimal campaign coverage could mean in months to come. At one point not so long ago, the show was so thoroughly trouncing its late night competition that even the ratings for Jimmy Kimmel Live! and The Late Show combined couldn't beat The Tonight Show. The numbers for the week of October 24 - 28 indicate that The Tonight Show scored a 0.83 in the valuable 18-49 age demographic, with 3.141 million viewers tuning in. Jimmy Kimmel Live! only drew a 0.49 rating and 2.274 million, and The Late Show only tallied a 0.46 and 2.535 million.
The ratings for The Tonight Show are admittedly lower than those from the end of October 2015, with the average for October 26 - 30 last year measuring as 0.97 in the 18 - 49 demographic and 3.76 million viewers. It should be noted, however, that the numbers for Jimmy Kimmel Live! and The The Late Show are down from October 2015 as well. Who knows? Maybe viewers as a whole need a break nowadays from late night coverage. We may need to wait and see if any of the series experience a boost following the November 8 general election.
Tune in to NBC on weeknights at 11:35 p.m. ET to see what Jimmy Fallon has in store next on The Tonight Show.