Despite NBC’s high hopes and expectations for Jimmy Fallon, the network is nevertheless pulling back on a plan to invest $25 million to build him a new studio in New York.
The new facility, which was to be carved out of existing space at NBC’s 30 Rockefeller Plaza headquarters in midtown Manhattan, was to have been a big part of the launch of the new “Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” in New York next year.
But now, the plan has been scrapped in favor of a more modest renovation of the studio that Fallon’s current show, NBC’s “Late Night,” currently occupies, according to this story on the Hollywood Reporter Web site.
THR says NBC worked for seven months on the plan to build a new studio with capacity for up to 400 audience members. It would have been two stories in height too, with enough room for a balcony to accommodate part of the studio audience. In addition, according to various stories about the plan that came out earlier this spring, the facility would also have doubled as an auditorium for NBC Universal corporate meetings and events, including movie screenings.
Now, though, the new plan calls for Fallon to have his existing studio redone at a cost of $5 million, THR said.
THR gives various reasons for the more-expensive plan to be scrapped, including the cost, and the space the facility would have taken up in a building completed in 1933 where space has been historically tight for decades.
We have another theory too, based on our years of covering late-night TV: In the final analysis, late-night shows don’t work when their studios are overly cavernous. We saw this back in ’92 when Jay Leno took over “The Tonight Show” and years later when Conan O’Brien took over “Tonight.” Back in the ’90s, NBC eventually gave Leno a smaller, more intimate studio where he felt more connected to the studio audience and his “Tonight” show thrived. Maybe Fallon and producer Lorne Michaels felt that, in the long run, Jimmy should have a more intimate space for his new show — a factor far out-weighing NBC’s need for a multi-use corporate auditorium.
And that’s another thing: No late-night host, especially one who is hosting perhaps the most important show on NBC, wants his show’s “home” to be used for anything else. When you get right down to it, the host’s comfort level is the most important thing that matters. Or, to put it another way, CBS owns one of the most storied theaters in New York — the Ed Sullivan Theater — and while that would be a great space in which to hold corporate meetings, they don’t do that, probably because David Letterman would feel like his “home” was being invaded. And if a host is uncomfortable, the show suffers.