The word is out among the NBC brass: As rumored and bounced around for some time, Jimmy Fallon is set to take Conan O’Brien’s job as host of "Late Night" in 2009. It’s a done deal.
Conan, of course, will be taking over for Jay Leno, who will leave the "Tonight" show in May 2009 as part of a forced retirement.
There’s much debate about letting Leno leave NBC etc., but right now let’s just concentrate on Jimmy. He’s the perfect successor to Conan and should have just as big an audience when he takes the reins. Fallon is one of those great underrated performers. This should be the right milieu for him.
I’m told NBC will make the formal announcement about Fallon around May 11 or 12, when the network presents the fall '08 schedule to advertisers here in New York.
Fallon, who recently married producer Nancy Juvonen, is said to be thrilled and ready, if not a little scared, about taking Conan’s desk. He still has to pick a producer and a band, among other things.
As for Leno, he has plenty of options. One of them might be to replace "Nightline" on ABC, pushing Jimmy Kimmel back to 12:30 a.m. But a lot can happen between now and May 2009 in the chess game they call TV programming.
Tom Cruise’s situation in the movie biz is a little — shall we say — confusing.
He has no movies coming out in 2008. This may be a blessing in disguise. Cruise is so overexposed from various tabloid scandals he could use some PR downtime.
The current brouhaha has to do with a possible separation from Katie Holmes. If you only read the supermarket mags, you’d certainly believe it. I don’t. Katie’s not going anywhere and neither is Suri, unless Tom is done with his bride.
The real news, my sources insist, is that Cruise and his reps at Creative Artists Agency approached at least two different studios with an eye toward making some kind of overall deal. This would be to create a home for him as an actor.
I know which studios were involved, but let’s leave it alone for the moment. Suffice to say, it didn’t work, which is why Cruise may have gone to that lunch with Sumner Redstone.
Anyway, in Wednesday’s New York Times, reporter Michael Cieply talked to Cruise’s producing partner, Paula Wagner, about the "Valkyrie" dilemma and the fate of United Artists. Wagner pointed out that UA was on track, and that when Dreamworks started up in 2005, it took them two years to get out their first film, "The Peacemaker."
Of course, Dreamworks started from scratch. UA is a continuation of Cruise/Wagner from its Paramount home, where presumably they had some projects in development and others at least in mind. Also, ‘tis a different world now. Two or three years is an eternity in this financial climate. UA needs to get going or die.
Can they do it? Yes, but only if they’re careful. "Valkyrie" could possibly under some strange circumstances turn out to be OK. I doubt it, but you never know.
True, "Titanic" was rumored to be a flop and wasn’t. But "Waterworld," "The Postman," "I Heart Huckabees," "Pluto Nash" and so many others were telegraphed to be disasters and were just that or worse. The "Valkyrie" trailer is ample proof that the film could be a huge stinker.
Wednesday night’s opening of the Tribeca Film Festival also was the premiere of Universal’s "Baby Mama," written by and starring Tina Fey with her "SNL" buddy Amy Poehler.
Most of the "SNL" gang showed up, including Lorne Michaels, Steve Martin (who’s very funny in the movie), Chevy Chase, Holland Taylor (who plays Tina’s mom) plus Poehler’s husband, Will Arnett and NBC chief Jeff Zucker. Also on hand, giving the proceedings a Hollywood buzz: Oscar-winner Faye Dunaway.
Not seen: cast members of Fey’s sublimely wonderful "30 Rock" sitcom like Alec Baldwin, Tracey Morgan or Jane Krakowski. I did run into Jonah Friedlander, who looked just like he does on the show. Scary.
"Baby Mama" got some discouraging reviews early on, but I think it’s a crowd-pleaser. It’s also slyly funny when you don’t expect it. There’s one oddly real scene where actor Dax Shepard describes a fancy apartment as being "like Kate Hudson’s New York pied-a-terre." Right after he shot the film, Shepard briefly dated Hudson.
Some of the best material goes to Sigourney Weaver, who has her own goofy subplot and has dead-on comic timing. Greg Kinnear is good as usual as Tina’s endearing romantic interest. I also liked Romany Malco, whom you may know from Showtime’s hit series "Weeds" as Mary-Louise Parker’s buddy/pot connection/possibly boyfriend. Now that he’s off "Weeds," Malco needs a breakout role either on TV or in film.
And wait, yes: You didn’t know that Malco was gone from "Weeds"? I’m told that most of the cast is gone as creator Jenji Kohan reinvents the show with Mary-Louise Parker, Elizabeth Perkins, Justin Kirk and Kevin Nealon surviving the move from fictional Agrestic, Calif. — which burned down at the end of last season — to a new spot in the Bay Area. That’s too bad: I’ll really miss those characters, particularly sassy Tonye Patano (as Heylia).
While some Broadway enthusiasts are despairing about the paucity of good original musicals this past season, fear not: "Billy Elliott" is on his way.
On Tuesday, Elton John, David Furnish and director Stephen Daldry introduced the three boys who will alternate as young dancer Billy when the smash hit show from London comes to New York in the fall.
From everything we heard and saw, "Billy Elliott" will be the show to beat in 2009 for the Tony. (The 2008 winner should be "Young Frankenstein.")
Sir Elton serenaded the crowd that came to the Performing Arts High School on West 48th Street with the show’s hit, "Electricity, and spoke a little about why he identified with Billy.
"My father did not want me to be a musician," he said. Luckily, Elton persevered.
Furnish, Elton’s partner/husband, is glowing because transferring the movie to the stage was his idea. Now he’s producing the show. He’s also producing a talk show series hosted by Elvis Costello on the Sundance channel. It’s set to air in December.
So far, Elvis has interviewed Elton, Tony Bennett and Lou Reed. "He’s a great interviewer!" David says of Elvis.
But Costello could learn a thing or two about marketing from Elton and David. His new album, "Momofoku," was released this week on vinyl only. I have no idea how to find it and neither does anyone else. CDs are said to be coming on May 6.