I watch late night TV. It's what I do.
I started this blog in 2005, when Jay Leno was hosting The Tonight Show.
Since then, Conan O'Brien hosted and then Jay Leno and now Jimmy Fallon.
That's a lot of transitions.
Of course, I watched the debut of Fallon's version.
As a regular viewer of Fallon's Late Night, the new show felt quite familiar.
The Roots were there as usual, though their new surroundings seemed a little awkward compared to their cozy (cramped) setting in the old studio.
The theme song is new. (I prefer the old one.)
Steve Higgins was there. I'm sure new viewers just being introduced to him will grow to love Higgins.
Naturally, the studio was foreign. It's a new place, and it didn't seem right. I like that it's not a barn. When Conan moved to California for his Tonight Show, that new studio was enormous. It was kind of cold and hollow. Fallon's studio, while larger than Late Night, still seems a bit more intimate. I'm sure I'll get used to it. It's a nice set.
Although Fallon seemed a little bit on edge, he was much more relaxed than he was for his Late Night debut.
He began with introductions, telling new viewers about himself. He talked about staying up late as a kid to watch Johnny Carson. He was a little emotional but he kept it together. Fallon's mom and dad, Jim and Gloria, were in the audience. He introduced them. He introduced the band and Higgins.
He explained that he will start the show with a monologue.
JIMMY FALLON: I'm glad that you're watching at home. I'm glad that you're here, because this is important. This is fun. This is what, we're all about. I remember being a kid, and being in Saugerties, and asking my parents, 'Can I stay up to watch Johnny Carson?' And it was a big deal to stay up late. And they would let me watch the monologue, and then I'd just try to pretend I wasn't there so they would let me go to the first guest or whatever bit they were going to do before they told me to go to bed. And I just think there's going to be a kid out there asking their parents to stay up to watch me. It just means a lot to me.That's sweet.
FALLON: I just hope I do well. I hope that you enjoy this. I just want to do the best I can and take care of this show for a while. And if you guys let me stick around long enough maybe I'll get the hang of it.Then, he started over. Literally. Fallon made another entrance. He did a very brief monologue focusing on the Olympics and then he went into a bit previously called Late Night Superlatives.
Our show starts with the monologue, the first ten minutes of our show. So after your local news, I'll come out from that beautiful curtain. I'll hit this monologue mark here which is a four-leaf clover. That's where I stand over. I'll stand over that and I read jokes off of cue cards. And these are jokes based on what's going on in the news, stuff like that. I'll make fun of everybody. Anyone I can make fun of I will. My goal is to just make you laugh and put a smile on your face so that you can go to sleep with a smile on your face and live a longer life. Isn't that the whole goal of what we're doing? Have fun?
I'm a little offended @jimmyfallon. Seriously, how dare you assume I'm a teriyaki wing guy? I only eat Buffalo style.— Steven Holcomb (@StevenHolcomb) February 18, 2014
After, he went to the desk and the parade of stars in the $100 Tonight Show Bet segment began, including Robert De Niro, Joe Namath (no fur coat), Rudy Giuliani, Lady Gaga, and Joan Rivers.
Will Smith and U2 were the guests. They were entertaining. No surprise there.
It was a good show. A first is always a little uncomfortable because it's not in the flow yet, with all the introductions and discussion about it being a new show. That's unavoidable.
One thing I like about late night talk shows is that they're comfortable. They're relaxing. It's all routine.
And, as Fallon said, his goal is to make people laugh and smile. That's what I look for in late night TV, something to enjoy and clear my head so I can let go of the stuff that happened during the day, things that might keep me awake.
It's obvious that Fallon is reaching out to a broad audience. Saying he'll make fun of everybody seems to be an effort to appeal to Leno's audience.
If the monologue is like Late Night, don't expect to hear many Obama jokes. They are relatively few and far between. Biden jokes are much more common in comparison. Generally, Fallon's monologue wasn't heavy on politics. Will that change? I don't know.
I don't like the way most late night hosts have given Obama a pass. Traditionally, the president is the subject of jokes. The guy in charge gets ribbed. That's the way it's always been, but not with Obama.
(Read an interesting take about late night comics protecting Obama, from Raymond Stiller, Johnny Carson's head writer.)
I like late night hosts with shows that project balance, no political agenda being pushed.
If you feel alienated and mocked, you're not going to stick around.
I think Jimmy Fallon can successfully replace Jay Leno, if the goal is to be fair and entertain everyone.
Here's video of the opening:
Video of the $100 bet: