Evincing the poise and professionalism of a network that botched the last two transitions of its signature late-night program, NBC’s move to bring The Tonight Show to Jimmy Fallon has been a relatively drama-free affair. (Give or take some public whining from Jay Leno.) That process is in the early goings, however, so there’s still potential for a fiasco that’s worthy of book-length recounting or a made-for-HBO movie—or maybe the knives will come out when the average Tonight viewer is already asleep. The New York Times’ Bill Carter reports that Alec Baldwin’s name is being batted around as a potential host in the 1:35 a.m. hour, an excellent idea complicated only by the fact that Carson Daly already fronts a half-hour talk/variety show in that timeslot.
And thus could begin what TV historians will refer to as the Baldwin-Daly War, a conflict that previously existed only as a theoretical rivalry prompted by the time Baldwin’s TRL shout-out for Korn’s “Freak On A Leash” was interrupted by Daly screaming “NO! NO! CUT TO THE BRITNEY SPEARS VIDEO!” Maybe Bill Carter will be able to get another book out of the struggle, titled The War For “Wait, That’s Still On? When Did He Get Rid Of The ‘House Bands’?”, detailing Baldwin’s inevitable threats to back out (followed by the decision to back out of backing out) and Daly’s complete indifference to the whole thing. (Because his day is already jam-packed with making contestants on The Voice cry about the dying parent and/or mold-borne infection that inspired their rendition of “22.”) And that sacrifice will appease the late-night gods, allowing Baldwin to adapt Here’s The Thing into a Tom Snyder-style interview show—until the next Tonight Show transition, the gears of which will be need to be slicked in blood, and Baldwin finds himself fed to the machinery by, we don’t know, a middle-aged Taylor Swift? Sure, that seems likely.
UPDATE: Looks like NBC is intent on keeping its hands clean this go-round: Less than 24 hours after Carter’s report on the Baldwin rumors, the Peacock has released a press release announcing the renewal of Last Call With Carson Daly. “We are thrilled to continue our relationship with Carson,” NBC’s President of Alternative and Late Night Paul Teledgy says via the release. “We’re sorry to have disappointed Alec,” Teledgy does not continue, “And hope he accepts this Funcooker as a token of NBC’s appreciation—and a sign of good faith for not rending the network in twain by bringing his decades-long rivalry with Carson to the foot of Mt. Rockefeller.”