“Today” show vet Bell, who has a degree in political science and government from Harvard, leaves Fallon’s show Thursday after we exclusively reported how he clashed with NBC entertainment kingmaker Lorne Michaels.
The chatter at NBC is that Bell has been talking to Democratic hopefuls about a role on a 2020 campaign, potentially creating media content and messaging.
Bell has spent 28 years at NBC, and is leaving after just one year at Fallon’s flailing show. He presided over “Today” for seven years, moving to another NBC role after the Ann Curry debacle. Bell was also close friends with disgraced host Matt Lauer, helmed NBC’s Olympics coverage and was in charge in Sochi, Russia, where Lauer was alleged to have raped producer Brooke Nevils. We’re told Bell’s NBC exit is not directly connected to the Lauer fallout. Lauer denies the allegation.
A TV source called Bell’s exit from the network “very surprising,” particularly as he was supervising the Olympics production in Tokyo for 2020. Another insider called Bell a “forceful” guy working within a “current culture problem” at “The Tonight Show.” Bell is said to have believed “SNL” boss Michaels was “stuck in the past” and didn’t understand that Fallon needed to reinvent himself to compete with CBS rival Stephen Colbert, who is averaging 3.5 million viewers, compared with roughly 2 million for Fallon, who is trailing in third place behind ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel.
Some of the show’s writers also didn’t see eye to eye with Bell, and a third NBC insider said, “This is a good fresh start.” Gavin Purcell is interim showrunner. In a statement, Bell said, “The past year with Jimmy and the terrific team at the show has been a blast.” He added he had a “strong desire to delve into something new … so I can broaden and deepen my leadership role in the content universe.”
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