Fallon's rivals haven't backed down from the competition. Kimmel got attention during the Winter Olympics for filming a stunt that jokingly suggested a wolf was roaming the halls of a dorm for athletes. With their youthful appeal (Fallon is 39, Kimmel 46), the two men seem primed for a bicoastal rivalry.
Letterman, during an appearance in January at Howard Stern's birthday bash, said Leno's departure wouldn't affect how long he wanted to keep working.
"I would do it forever if it were up to me," he said, before adding a wry aside: "Sometimes, it isn't up to me."
Judging by one of television's most prominent measuring sticks for likability, Fallon's success shouldn't be a surprise. He has a "Q'' score of 19 among viewers aged 18 to 34 — which means 19 percent of people familiar with him consider Fallon one of their favorite personalities, said the company Marketing Evaluations Inc., which polled consumers both before and after the "Tonight" takeover. Kimmel's score was 16 and Letterman's 11, the company said (an average celebrity "Q'' score is 17).
Among young men, Fallon's score shoots up to 24, said company spokesman Henry Schafer. More people that age know who Fallon is than know Letterman, he said.
For older viewers, the graciousness of Leno, 63, during the transition was crucial, Harbert said. "He said to the country, 'It's OK to watch Jimmy Fallon,'" he said. "I think if he hadn't, we wouldn't have been in this position."
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