Too Late to Keep ‘Tonight,’ L.A. Leaders React to Show’s Move to Manhattan

There’s no doubt about it: The succession plan for “The Tonight Show,” which will see Jimmy Fallon succeed Jay Leno and the show move from Burbank to Manhattan, is a blow to the Los Angeles region, not just in jobs and even tourism, but for the idea that it’s just a given that a venerable show biz franchise would be based within the Hollywood universe.

As word leaked out over NBC’s plans, the mayor of Burbank, Dave Golonski, jokingly threatened to go on a hunger strike, while sending the network a letter urging them to reconsider. The Los Angeles Times editorialized that it was “yet another sign that Hollywood’s gravitational force isn’t what it used to be.” Much was made of the fact that a show which left New York in 1972, when the city was about to flirt with bankruptcy, is now leaving a region beset with its own budget woes.

The question is whether this will be a turning point in addressing runaway production, which seems to have a lot of politicians and producers decrying the problem yet actual plans are often criticized as too little, too late or, even worse, all too indifferent as the state of New York looks to sweeten the pot with tax incentives. Producers say that the savings in other states and countries is too great to pass up, particularly when it comes to major features. The next “Star Wars” and “Jurassic Park” movies will shoot elsewhere, but studios for some time have chosen to other locales for tentpole production.

About 200 people worked on “The Tonight Show,” and the show is not the ratings grabber that it once was. Two competing shows, “Jimmy Kimmel Live” and “Conan,” are still based in the Los Angeles region, drawing from time to time on the So Cal self-obsessed culture as the butt of jokes, but making the area the center of attention nonetheless.

Today, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said, “I am disappointed that the ‘Tonight Show’ will be relocating to New York after more than 40 years in LA. But I am pleased that NBC has significantly increased its local TV production in LA and I have been assured they will continue to do so to support a critical piece of our local economy.”

City Controller Wendy Greuel, who is running for mayor, vowed that she would be “a fierce advocate who will compete nationally and internationally for more entertainment jobs and expansion of the industry, right here in Los Angeles.”

She said, “Some things are just better in L.A. The Dodgers. The weather. And ‘The Tonight Show.’ I’d like to personally give Jimmy a tour of L.A. to remind him why L.A. is the entertainment capital of the world, and why ‘The Tonight Show’ has so much success here for the last 41 years.”

Her challenger, Los Angeles city councilman Eric Garcetti, said that the show’s move “reminds us just how important the industry is to our economic and cultural fabric. As mayor, I will continue building on the local incentives I’ve created and continue fighting for stronger state incentives so that we are competing as hard as we can for film and TV jobs.”

Here’s a clip from one of Carson’s typical jabs at Burbank, from a monologue in 1983.

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