Jay Leno (left) and Jimmy Fallon (Getty Images file )
Word on the street is that Jay Leno's leaving the "Tonight Show." Why do I feel like I've heard that before?
Maybe it's because I have heard it before, back in 2004 when Conan O'Brien was promised the reins to the show in 2009. "The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien" lasted a whole six months before Jay started complaining about his low ratings at 9 o'clock.
As we all remember, the situation devolved. Conan eventually said "screw this" and bounced, and Leno moved back into his old TV home.
Now Jay's back at the "Tonight Show" and the network's back to promising a young up-and-comer the gig. This time it's Jimmy Fallon in 2014, according to a report in The New York Times. (Coincidentally, Jimmy's been manning the "Late Night" post since Conan's 2009 promotion.)
It seems NBC is worried Jay won't be able to compete with younger, funnier hosts such as the Jimmys (Fallon and Kimmel) for the 18-to-49 demographic, although he's held the top spot consistently for years.
Funny enough, the same hackneyed humor that gives Jay such broad appeal across the heartland is the same reason I'm not a fan. Sure, I laugh at the "Headlines" segment, but even then, I tune in only when I remember Jay Leno exists. It's been years.
Leno doesn't offend anyone, which probably is his worst offense. For better or worse, we live in a partisan age. You're either liberal, conservative or ardently moderate.
That's why Fox News is whoopin' ass in the ratings, no matter how many cruise disasters CNN brings to you live. And that's why the "Daily Show" and "Colbert Report" won more adults under 35 in their time slots during the Republican National Convention than Fox News, MSNBC or CNN.
We know where Fox stands on the issues, just as we know where Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert stand on the issues. Jay, on the other hand, is friends with everybody. And a man who's friends with everybody has no friends. Hence, his friends at NBC keep looking to replace him.
Besides all that, Leno's just not new, not like Fallon and Kimmel are. There's a reason why people line up to get the new iPhone even when it's exactly like the old one: It's the new one.
And that's what it's about, that new-new. Fallon and Kimmel are doing fresh and exciting things on their shows—whether it's doing a live performance of Rebecca Black's "Friday" with Colbert and the Roots (like Fallon did), or getting dozens of celebrities to star in his spoof, "Movie: The Movie" (like Kimmel did, twice).
Even the "Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson" on CBS has a hilarious talking robot and an alluring fake horse. (Hey, at least he's trying.)
What's the last cool thing Jay's done? Jaywalking? He's been doing that since the Cretaceous.
Meanwhile, both Jimmys are all over social media, both have hosted the Emmys, and there's a rumor floating around that Kimmel might host the Oscars next year, which would rival the killing of Osama bin Laden as the greatest night of the 21st century.
Could you imagine Jay Leno hosting the Oscars? Worst. Oscars. Ever. (Hey, at least James Franco would finally be off the hook.) In fact, can you imagine Jay hosting anything?
Apparently NBC can't imagine it past 2014.
Hector Luis Alamo Jr. is a RedEye special contributor.
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