What's Behind Jimmy Fallon's 'Tonight Show' Senior Staff Turnover

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Jimmy Fallon

As the showrunner and digital guru leave amid election buzz for his rivals, the late-night leader switches up his team.

On the air, it's business as usual for Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show. But behind the scenes, the NBC late-night leader is adapting to the exits of two longtime power players in as many weeks.

First, producer-writer Gavin Purcell, a force on Fallon's digital team, jumped to Vox Media. Then, on Oct. 24, showrunner Josh Lieb, who had been with Fallon since his move to 11:35 p.m. in February 2014, left for a Universal Television deal. Filling Lieb's shoes are three Tonight producers: Gerard Bradford and Mike DiCenzo, who will handle creative efforts, and supervising producer Katie Hockmeyer, who will oversee production.

Tonight continues to far outpace the competition on ABC (Jimmy Kimmel) and CBS (Stephen Colbert) in adults 18-to-49 and total viewers, and it remains the top late-night-show channel on YouTube and Facebook. But the election season has boosted buzz for his rivals and their barbed political humor while Fallon mostly has made headlines for his softball treatment of Donald Trump. (At the same time, CBS' James Corden is building web momentum for his stunts and Carpool Karaoke franchise.)

Perhaps recognizing an image tweak is in order, Purcell's and Lieb's exits coincide with Fallon switching personal publicists from Claire Mercuri to Matthew Hiltzik, known as a crisis manager for Brad Pitt and Ryan Lochte (as well as noncrisis clients like Katie Couric). Hiltzik declined comment.

This story first appeared in the Nov. 11 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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