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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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March 20th, 2013
05:32 PM ET

Jay Leno is out, Jimmy Fallon is in?

By Jake Tapper and Sherisse Pham

Jay Leno is out at "The Tonight Show" and Jimmy Fallon is in, according to The New York Times' Bill Carter, who also reports today the show is coming back to New York City, after coming to you from sunny Burbank California for the past 40 years.

"The idea that Jimmy was getting the show was kind of out there because Jay has got one contract that he's working on, he's 62, so there was ... an expectation he would be leaving soon," said Carter.

"What is really surprising is the move back to New York," adds the Times journalist. "There are a lot of reasons for it, I think they all feel the energy of New York helps Fallon."

There are African nations that have had smoother leadership transitions than "The Tonight Show's" game of musical chairs. NBC had to pay Conan O'Brien $45 million to re-install Jay Leno. Then there was a battle between Leno and David Letterman chronicled so memorably in "The Late Shift" also by Carter.

The move to New York may make it difficult to book guests, but Carter says the late night talent will lure those Hollywood stars to the east coast.

"If you have Jimmy Kimmel out there, [you have] two shows going head to head for bookings," says Carter.

But will Leno really leave this time? There is no deal for the timetable of the transition, just "an understanding," says Carter, who adds that Leno has a contract that goes until fall of 2014.

"I think from Jay's point of view he will work until they tell him to stop," says Carter. "The last time this happened, something changed, so maybe he thinks something will change again. And you can't blame him."

Moreover, the heir to the throne is young, and some question Fallon's readiness for the prime time slot.

NBC executives "undoubtedly have decided yes or near yes," says Carter. Fallon has hosted a show for just four years; O'Brien did it for 14, and Letterman for 11.

"This is a much faster path to the 11:30 slot than anybody has had before," says Carter. But it is a different time in television, and things are changing.

NBC executives "want to have a new kind of a show," says Carter. "They want to have young blood."

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