TV: Stick A Fork In It, Jimmy Fallon Is Done

My last post detailed my first observations of the new Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, and now having been witness to its first month of shows, I can now unequivocally state that late night television has the best new host since David Letterman. 

Closer to Carson than Letterman, but more showman than either. Fallon has brought an unequaled energy, excitement and attention to late night.

Fallon has arrived (photo: nbc)

Nobody has been able to convince major movie and television stars to participate in sketches, musical numbers or special events, until Fallon.

Nobody has so transformed the stock standard joke, laugh, joke, laugh formula of the monologue, until Fallon.

And nobody has been able to bring a fun energy, with no cynicism or bad vibes, until Fallon.

He has been able to totally reinvent the show, moving totally away from the stand-up comic vibe of Leno and while not being all too similar to Carson, has been able to capture his essence and reinstate the integrity back into the franchise, while also ensuring that he also brings it into the new century.

Jimmy Fallon’s monologues are the funniest on television, they are filled with spontaneous and partially improvised laugh out loud moments. They don’t seem forced or repetitive and they don’t drag out.

The comedy pieces are fresh, original and don’t feel like an afterthought, which Leno’s often seemed.

The guests are integrated into the show, not just strutted out to tell their funny vacation story. Kevin Bacon dancing onto the show in the style of footloose, Michelle Obama joining in on the sketch ‘ewww’, and Jon Hamm photo bombing tourists atop 30 Rock. Nobody else has tried, or even bothered to make the guests the centre of the show, and integrate comedy into their segments.

Fallon has fun with Jon Hamm (photo: nbc)

While there is no doubt Letterman shines as an interviewer, Fallon cannot compete there, but what he does bring is enthusiasm and energy into his celebrity chats. They don’t drag on and there is always a chance for a good one liner to be snuck in.

Meanwhile the music on the show continues to be the best, from the musical guests, lavish performers and The Roots continuing to surprise and entertain as multi dimensional performers.

NBC may have totally messed up the last Tonight Show transition, but in the process stumbled upon the best host since Carson.

It took 22 years, but The Tonight Show is back.

TV: The Tonight Show Returns Home

After more than 40 years away from New York, The Tonight Show returned to its ancestral home of New York City last night.

Jimmy Fallon began his tenure as host of The Tonight Show, from the original studio where Tonight began in 1954. 

image: NBC

Fallon began by summing up how extraordinary it was to be in his position, and introduced his parents, who were in the audience, as they were on the night of his first Late Night show. He thanked the previous hosts of the franchise, while managing to get in a slight dig at Jay Leno at the same time.

image: nbcdevotee.tumblr.com

This honesty and warmth is something not displayed on Leno’s Tonight Show, except for his rare outpouring of emotion on his final episode. 

The jokes were all there, and then it was on the desk, his new set looks bigger and more expansive than before, and unlike the grundy Late Night set, this one is very art deco and classy, befitting The Tonight Show, somewhat similar to what Conan O’Brien attempted to do in 2009.

image: NBC

U2 played on the Rockefeller Center roof, a great spectacle with the New York skyline and sunset in the background. Will Smith appeared and was entertaining as always, then U2 came out again and played at the desk.

The show wrapped up with a thank you to the New York State Governors office, which gives New York filmed shows some nice tax breaks. Another good reason to return home to New York.

TV: The State of Late Night

Next month sees Jay Leno depart The Tonight Show for the second time.

This tectonic shift in late night television will see the show return to New York City for the first time in more than 40 years, returning to its ancestral home of Studio 5B in Rockefeller Centre. Along with the location change, current Late Night host Jimmy Fallon will take the reins of one of the greatest franchises in television history.

Fallon who has a background in improvisational and stand-up comedy will – from all reports, continue doing similar things to what he has done for the last five years on Late Night.

image

Passing the torch, Leno and Fallon (photo: nbc)

The biggest change will be a longer opening monologue, a hallmark of The Tonight Show. Under both Johnny Carson and Jay Leno, the around 10 minute monologue set the mood for the show, and condensed the days news into joke sized bites of politics, sports and entertainment. The monologue has been an important element of the show for over 50 years, it could be argued that to be a great host, you need to be quick, smart and most importantly; be able to deliver a good monologue, you can get away with not being the best interviewer, but the monologue is a deal breaker. 

When Conan O’Brien briefly took over the show in 2009 he also extended the length of his monologue and reduced the amount of time doing ‘desk pieces’. The issue there, is he was never the strongest at delivering monologue jokes, but rather at sketches and pieces shot remotely, not to mention having Leno’s lengthy monologue preceding him on his short-lived primetime variety show.

I shouldn’t think Fallon will struggle when it comes to this, his nervous and jumpy persona seems to give him a strangely unique way of delivering one-liners, and it won’t feel like he is ‘doing Jay’. His biggest issue is still interviews, but as we saw with Jay Leno’s lack of interview abilities, it shouldn’t hold him back.

I believe Fallon will be able to do what Conan couldn’t in the short time NBC provided him, appeal to a wider audience. His audience is slightly older than Conan’s already, which either reflects network television’s dated audience, or his ability to hold on to more of Leno’s older viewers.

image

Can Seth Deliver? (photo: nbc)

The biggest question over the movement at NBC is whether the new host of Late Night, Seth Meyers will be able to stand out in an already crowded late night market. From the outset it looks as if he will be attempting to do something different to Letterman, Conan and Fallon before him and bring more political and news based comedy to the table. This may work, or it may not appeal to a wide enough audience on network television. 

The next few months will be interesting, especially as to how NBC will stomach potential audience losses and changes – and whether they will hold out and give their new hosts time to work out their kinks before pulling the plug prematurely, like before.