The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon loses head writer amid ratings woes

THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JIMMY FALLON -- Episode 0647 -- Pictured: (l-r) Host Jimmy Fallon as 'Sara', singer Demi Lovato, and writer A.D. Miles during 'Ew!' on March 27, 2017 -- (Photo by: Andrew Lipovsky/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JIMMY FALLON -- Episode 0647 -- Pictured: (l-r) Host Jimmy Fallon as 'Sara', singer Demi Lovato, and writer A.D. Miles during 'Ew!' on March 27, 2017 -- (Photo by: Andrew Lipovsky/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images) /

“The Tonight Show” head writer A.D. Miles has stepped down as ratings for the show continue to decline, and rumors swirl about a format change.

News broke late Wednesday that Jimmy Fallon’s longtime head writer A.D. Miles has decided to vacate his position in order to pursue acting and narrative writing opportunities in Los Angeles, Deadline reports. Miles has worked alongside The Tonight Show host for eight years since he was still hosting Late Night in 2009, totaling over 1,500 episodes. The pair are still expected to collaborate on an upcoming animated film.

“Riding Jimmy Fallon’s coattails for the past eight years has given me all the confidence I need to strike out on my own and work on a movie with Jimmy Fallon,” Miles joked in a statement.

Added Fallon:

"“Miles was there for the launch of Late Night as well as the launch of The Tonight Show. He is one of the funniest, most creative people I’ve ever met and I can’t wait to work on this next project with him. He’s family to us, and we are gonna miss him.”"

Besides his behind-the-scenes role, Miles also occasionally appeared in front of camera, such as during the recent “Ew!” sketch with Demi Lovato where he reprised his role as Gary, the stepdad to Fallon’s easily disgusted character, Sara. His other credits include Comedy Central’s Dog Bites Man, the Wet Hot American Summer film and its recent Netflix prequel series, subtitled “First Day of Camp.” He will transition out of The Tonight Show job over the coming weeks, while a permanent replacement has not yet been named.

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Though the departure was reportedly being considered for months, the shakeup comes as The Tonight Show has struggled in the ratings of late, coming in second to CBS’ The Late Show with Stephen Colbert for eight weeks straight among total viewers, handing the network its first February sweeps win in the time slot in seven years. Though the gap is tightening and Fallon still leads in the 18-49 demo — leading the New York Post to speculate that Colbert’s time at the top may soon be coming to an end — the most concerning part is that his viewers haven’t seemed to migrate to The Late Show, which has gained viewers from the fall since Donald Trump took office, but has remained relatively flat compared to a year ago. Instead, a large chunk of his audience has seemed to disappear entirely, and even his YouTube views are down considerably, recently getting outpaced by The Late Show and The Daily Show with Trevor Noah on the video-sharing site, with both shows gaining considerable ground across social media platforms in the past few months.

What’s also troubling is that the recent tightening in the ratings between The Tonight Show and The Late Show hasn’t occurred due to gains from Fallon, but declines from Colbert, whose show had two back-to-back shortened weeks due to coverage of March Madness. For example, during the week of March 20th, The Tonight Show “took a noticeable hit” in the ratings as TV by the Numbers put it, dropping from its previous 0.75 rating among adults 18-49 to a 0.64, while also dipping from 3.07 to 2.74 million viewers. However, all of the late-night shows were down across the board for the week with the exception of The Daily Show remaining steady at a 0.31 rating, demonstrating that The Tonight Show is no longer exempt from the ratings declines seen across the broadcast networks, as consumers increasingly switch to non-linear viewing habits.

The ratings decline has reportedly spurred NBC execs to implore Fallon to get more political on the show as a way to keep up with Colbert’s politically charged comedy, following criticism that he was too chummy with then-candidate Trump in an interview last year, leading to speculation that he turned off some of his liberal-leaning viewers with his tussling of the polarizing politician’s hair. Thus far, there’s some evidence that Fallon has taken the advice to heart as he’s made more pointed jokes aimed at the president during his opening monologue, and has not only impersonated Trump during skits, but has also taken to lampooning Trump cabinet members like Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

Next: Jay Leno returning to Tonight Show for Jimmy Fallon’s Universal Orlando ride opening

NBC is making several attempts to ensure that Fallon’s ratings bounce back, including sending the host to Orlando next week to commemorate the opening of his new ride at Universal Orlando Resort. He’s also slated to host the first of four SNL episodes that will air live from coast to coast for the first time in the show’s long history in April, paired with One Direction’s Harry Styles making his solo debut.

The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon continues weeknights at 11:35 p.m. on NBC.