REVIEW

First Night A Hit For ‘Tonight’ Host Fallon

As promised during the much-promoted run-up to his Tonight Show debut, Jimmy  Fallon made no drastic changes to the Late Night formula that had served him for five years. He remained funny, gracious, bubbly and, above all, comfortable presiding over a show that was different mostly for its earlier time slot, its classier production values and legendary brand name. A key part of the celebratory spirit for Fallon was the fact that, after more than 40 years in Los Angeles, he and NBC have brought Tonight back to New York and Rockefeller Plaza.

NEW YORK (AP) — If Jimmy Fallon had already proven he was a natural hosting NBC’s “Late Night,” he left no doubt Monday that “The Tonight Show” now fits him like a glove.

As promised during the much-promoted run-up to his “Tonight Show” debut, Fallon made no drastic changes to the “Late Night” formula that had served him for five years. He remained funny, gracious, bubbly and, above all, comfortable presiding over a show that was different mostly for its earlier time slot, its classier production values and legendary brand name.

“We can book people from the West Coast?!” he joked at his newfound status.

He did pretty well with his bookings on opening night: Will Smith and the rock group U2.

But all that was ahead.

First, his viewers beheld his new set, boasting burnished-wood paneling and panoramic blue curtains.

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They had seen his filmed opening — Jimmy as the New York nightcrawler — shot by director Spike Lee.

They discovered that his band, the Roots, had grown by two from its already husky eight pieces.

Then out he came, to thunderous applause, and planted himself on his mark (a four-leaf clover) to deliver his first monologue.

“I’m Jimmy Fallon,” he began, and, with a nod to past late-night turbulence that most recently saw his “Tonight” predecessor, Jay Leno, make an unsought exit, he added, “I’ll be your host – for now.”

He expressed gratitude for his new gig, introduced his parents in the studio audience, and dispensed love in every direction — and made it sound authentic.

He had a few Olympics jokes, one offering sympathy to NBC sportscaster Bob Costas, who was sidelined from several days of Olympics coverage with a blinding bout of pinkeye.

“You could tell he was having trouble when he spent half-an-hour interviewing a mop he thought was Shaun White,” Fallon cracked.

Back at his desk, he voiced what seemed like an aside: “To my buddy who said that I’d never be the host of ‘The Tonight Show’ — and you know who you are — you owe me a hundred bucks, buddy.”

With that, Robert De Niro burst through the curtain and plunked a hundred dollars on Fallon’s desk.

But that wasn’t all. In rapid succession, a parade of other celebs circled through right behind him. They included Joe Namath, Rudolph Giuliani, Lindsay Lohan, Lady Gaga, Mike Tyson, Stephen Colbert and Sarah Jessica Parker.

Joan Rivers was also among them, repaying her “debt” and making a bit of history in the bargain: 49 years earlier to the day, the veteran comedian had made her first appearance on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” in that very studio, and had not appeared on “Tonight” since 1987, when she was banned by Carson after jumping to Fox to host her own short-lived show.

A key part of the celebratory spirit for Fallon was the fact that, after more than 40 years in Los Angeles, he and NBC have brought “Tonight” back to New York and Rockefeller Plaza, where it has reclaimed Studio 6B, once the home of Carson and, before him, “Tonight” host Jack Paar.

If viewers needed visual evidence of “Tonight’s” restored New York state of mind, Fallon delivered it with flourish.

From the observation deck atop the G.E Building he occupies, he introduced U2, who, 70 stories aloft, performed a new song, “Invisible,” against a magnificent New York cityscape at a perfect moment of dusk. The backdrop was so beautiful you might have sworn it was computer generated, but it was real, as was the bitter cold that had the musicians, and a legion of fans gathered round, clad in heavy winter wear.

But after a commercial break, Fallon and his musical guests were cozy, back in the studio, where U2, seated on the powder-blue couch, performed an acoustic version of their Oscar-nominated song, “Ordinary Love.”

It was a fine ending to a much-assured hour.

“I just want to do the best I can and take care of this show for a while,” Fallon told viewers. “If you guys let me stick around long enough, maybe I’ll get the hang of it.”

No worries. For five years on “Late Night” he was getting the hang of it.


Comments (14)

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Todd Keel says:

February 18, 2014 at 9:26 am

He bombed. His “love you” comments sounded insincere and went on far too long. The set was nice except for the announcers podium which looked like a leftover political rally prop…and the announcer (whoever he is) slouched against it. The “here’s Jimmmmmmmmmmmy Falllllllllllon” intro was awful and seemed like an attempt to copy the old Ed McMahon intro to Carson. There were a couple of weird camera shots during the opening and monologue sections showing nothing but an empty stage, and there was a strange jump cut edit to the tape during Fallon’s “I love you” tribute to his announcer. I must admit this is my first exposure to Fallon but I couldn’t take it and tuned out during the first commercial.

Bill Greep says:

February 18, 2014 at 9:55 am

The show was fantastic… all of Fallon’s strengths (comedy, musicality, dance, celebrity reach) was there and clips are trending this morning. The set and views of the NYC skyline were amazing. You either “get” Fallon or not…

Christina Perez says:

February 18, 2014 at 10:01 am

Several faux pas, yes, including: choppy edits suggesting stops and startsand a lack of live-in-tape spontaneity; unncessary laugh-track sweetened monolog; having Bono sing live on tape to an obviously prerecorded backing track; wide shots that made the studio look puny; too much early emphasis on the Fallon bio by Fallon himself. The debut only hinted of Fallon’s versatility; I was hoping for a bit of his Carson impersonation. IMO the technical director must not be a Fallon fan…

Christina Perez says:

February 18, 2014 at 10:27 am

How about supplying links to various other reviews from around the country? Thx.

Geoffrey Miller says:

February 18, 2014 at 11:48 am

Fallon is quite simply the best late night host in the business. It is good to see nice guys finish first, not like Letterman, Kimmel and O’Brian, who are jerks.

Wagner Pereira says:

February 18, 2014 at 12:10 pm

7.1 Rating among households. Tied Conan’s launch in 2009. 2nd highest Tonight show rating since May 29, 2009 – Jay Leno’s last Broadcast prior to Conan took over. Leno’s last Broadcast on Feb 6 pulled a 9.2. Last night, 20% of US Viewers tuned in. Letterman and Kimmel had 5% each.

Jack Steele says:

February 18, 2014 at 1:01 pm

I turned off the TV after the “skit”. I couldn’t take anymore. And if he’s trying to keep “Tonight Show tradition”, then The Roots should be renamed “The Tonight Show Band”.

    Just Fine says:

    February 18, 2014 at 2:23 pm

    The Roots were The Roots before they came on Late Night and The Tonight Show, so they’re not changing their name for anybody. Don’t like it? Don’t watch it along with the other shows you don’t watch.

Scott Cote says:

February 18, 2014 at 1:59 pm

I get it! Really! The demographics and a host of other perfectly sensible reasons. I get it! But this man is really a major fail. I don’t think there is the slightest bit of humility wrapped up in his personae. As hard as he will try to “take care of this show for a while”, he will ultimately fail. I will watch the “Tonight Show” when there is a guest I really HAVE to see, and only then. And, that’s the difference between Fallon and Leno.

    Just Fine says:

    February 18, 2014 at 2:28 pm

    “Major fail?” What are you, eight? The word is “failure,” not “fail.” I don’t think he’s a failure. Definitely not a piece of stale bread like the last guy. From everything I’ve read and heard about him over the years, Jimmy really is the optimistic, humbled, goofy, talented individual you see on the screen. He knows that people like you aren’t going to like him, but at least give him a chance.

    Jack Steele says:

    February 18, 2014 at 3:20 pm

    KaiSen, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. There’s no need to be rude about it.

    Just Fine says:

    February 18, 2014 at 6:52 pm

    Wasn’t being rude. I’m just saying grown ups using the word “fail” when they should be using the word “failure” shows a lack of maturity. The internet culture is just weird that way.

Debra winans says:

February 18, 2014 at 3:18 pm

Who you find funny and appealing is very subjective. Just because you like or hate Jimmy Fallon, doesn’t mean everyone else feels the same way.


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