Written by / 2/18/2014 / No comments / , ,

FIRST NIGHT OF THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JIMMY FALLON

Jimmy Fallon Takes Over TONIGHT
A clever introduction for this article would be to list the TONIGHT SHOW hosts in order, beginning with the groundbreaking Steve Allen followed by the pan-flash Jack Paar, long running staple Johnny Carson, his stalwart replacement Jay Leno, Conan O’Brien and... Jay Leno… 

But last night the newest host, Jimmy Fallon, told the exact same joke… Calling out the elephant in the room... And that was the best way to begin his new stint as TONIGHT SHOW host, by sarcastically quipping that, like the last youthful replacement, he may not be around very long.

A few years ago a strange thing happened when, after Conan O’Brien took over the reins of the NBC 11:30 time slot, Jay Leno, who was “retired early” like a character straight out of LOGAN’S RUN, returned for a 10 o’clock show, basically mirroring his TONIGHT right down to the in-house band, snarky political monologues and guests like Robin Williams and Billy Crystal…

Turns out he was being slowly brought back like a rogue item on a conveyor belt, and would soon take over his old gig: the producers quickly pressed CNTRL Z as if no one else were paying attention.

So Conan would be cane-yanked like a failed vaudeville performer, which is part of why the former LATE NIGHT host didn’t last… Readymade for college audiences, the jovial jester simply wasn’t a sleeping pill for the middle-aged and elderly audiences that Leno, and before that, Johnny Carson catered to…

So the question raised by everyone, including (albeit cryptically) Fallon himself, is will Jimmy boy last as the "new improved" TONIGHT SHOW host?

Judging by the Monday night pilot/introduction, his best moments were in the very beginning… He walked out and humbly asked people to like him… Those of us who had never seen his LATE NIGHT venture and had given up on SNL years ago, were meeting Fallon for the first time… He mentioned his wife and kid, and his mother and father were in the audience… At this point, if Jimmy passed out ELECT ME buttons it wouldn’t be that shocking: He was bittersweet, down-to-earth, seemed very relaxed, sincere, and yes, witty… Then he pulled a “mulligan”…

His band, The Roots, a revved-up version of Jay Leno’s original jazzy Branford Marsalis ensemble, jammed a funky rhythm (a new catchy theme has yet to be written, correct?) and Jimmy walked back out on stage, told a few decent jokes, and did a visual routine that was actually quite funny: Showing pictures of Olympic athletes and commenting on what each looked like, from pot smoking hippies to Red Bull addicts. This human Rorschach test was, as it were, the first hit of the night.

But soon the old folks warming up at home would be suddenly jolted… Fallon and Will Smith (who was, at first, hardly distinguishable since not being properly introduced) did a bouncy number where names of particular hip-hop dances would show on the screen, and they’d follow suit. Here we got to see our new host has physical talent. But in a hard-working world prepared for slumber, do we really need a male version of an IN LOVING COLOR fly girl lighting up the screen?

Next up was a performance by mega-band U2 atop a very tall building's dusky rooftop: A nod to The Beatles LET IT BE, the Irish rockers played a new song INVISIBLE that seemed like the following morning of their past hit, BEAUTIFUL DAY…

Although being played live, it came across tinny and dubbed: The guitar sounded like a glossy synthesizer, the drums were 80’s electric and the bass was hardly distinguishable… But this is a review for Fallon, not U2, who would make up for a mediocre performance when, at the end of the show, they played an acoustic version of their Oscar Nominated song that was really quite good.

Okay so, we just skipped to the end so let’s finish up by covering the in-between, and by far the low points of the night: First when a group of celebrities, ranging from Robert De Niro to Seth Rogan, walked out and handed Jimmy a hundred dollars… He had mentioned that a particular friend owes him bet-money for getting this lucrative TONIGHT SHOW spot, and it turned out to be all these people…

When each celeb appeared through the curtain, ambled up to Fallon’s brown desk (with a matching brown city landscape backdrop), the audience was roaring too loudly, and only a few of the celebs were even recognizable… Not only did this sketch go on way too long, it was clumsy and awkward, to say the very least: Basically, like that hip-hop dance number, the blaring alarm would not only put the at-home viewing audience on edge, but deleted any of the down-home charm Fallon demonstrated earlier.

Lastly, the interview with Will Smith, whom Fallon claimed was one of the biggest stars on the planet… When in reality, Smith has been failing to completely woo cinema audiences... This was the real low point…

Jimmy seemed nervous and antsy, and hardly zeroed in on his guest or asked any interesting questions… And Smith, telling inside jokes and reminiscing about his show biz family and their personal connection to Fallon, wasn’t helping matters: We were basically overhearing two chums talking old times together. Thankfully, this “interview” didn’t last very long.

As mentioned, the acoustic U2 song sounded quite good… even for those benign to the omnipresent pop outfit, the crooning ballad was moving and impressive. While a timid Fallon failed to connect with the band, the band connected with the audience... And after the tune, that was basically that: Jimmy Fallon had delivered an opening show in which his best moments were tame and humble, only he might not have realized this fact: which explains all the bookended noise that had our new host beating the clock till his maiden voyage was complete.

That is, he only looked noticeably uncomfortable when he was forced to pay attention to someone and/or something else. And if in fact his Achilles Heel is interviewing famous celebrities, could there be an iceberg looming in the distance... with a really big chin?
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