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Reacting to Jimmy Fallon’s Late Night Debut

You can't rush my stimulus, baby.

So, you might not have been previously made aware of this news, but someone other than Conan O'Brien hosted NBC's Late Night talk show last night. Yes, that's right, some ten months after media critics bared their fangs when NBC announced Jimmy Fallon was taking over the time slot, the boyish wonder made his official debut as Talk Show Host at 12:35 a.m. And even though he was visibly nervous (those of you with HDTV could see sweat drops beginning to form on his forehead during the De Niro segment) and failed to live up to his promise that he would Tweet during the show breaks, only the grumpiest of observers would go on record stating that Late Night With Jimmy Fallon didn't show some promise. But that's not to say that that there weren't some things that could use fixing.

Also, despite the fact that we already identified a distant look in ?uestlove's eyes that makes us think that he'll be looking for loopholes to trigger an escape clause in the five-year contract they signed to perform on the show, there was some promising chemistry on display between Fallon and the Roots. Take, for example, the bit they called "Slow Jam the News":

Also, despite the fact that we already identified a distant look in ?uestlove's eyes that makes us think that he'll be looking for loopholes to trigger an escape clause in the five-year contract they signed to perform on the show, there was some promising chemistry on display between Fallon and the Roots. Take, for example, the bit they called "Slow Jam the News":


Yet it wasn't all peaches and cream. The monologue, in addition to being devoid of a genuinely good zinger, seemed to be delivered in a bit too frenetic of a manner. We'll chalk that one up to nerves, but last night's material seemed to be written too closely to the Weekend Update format and not quite in the conversational vein that someone like Letterman has mastered (over 30-some years, but still). Additionally, it's clear that Fallon is not yet at ease as an interviewer. During the first segment with the overwhelmingly laconic and nearly mute Robert De Niro, Fallon spoke for five of the six minutes before the first commercial segment. As if that wasn't painful enough, the segment concluded with a bit that was nearly identical to what Fallon did with De Niro on Weekend Update a million moons ago:



While it's kind of weak sauce to pass off old bits as new (even those that no one other than SNL obsessives like myself remember), we didn't really have any problem with Fallon and Justin Timberlake re-creating their Barry Gibb Talk Show bit for the millionth time. We've always thought that the two, when put together, are a total Ham Sandwich, but sometimes you've got to give the masses what they want. That's what being on a major network is all about, isn't it?

Even with those network constraints in mind, we found the shout-outs to the Bud Light Green Room to be a bit too transparently promotional, but what we're really curious to see is whether Fallon will be able to convince other stars to read testimonial-type copy for the show's advertisers like he did with Timberlake (talk about added viral value for the sponsor).

But before we get into that, we think it bears mentioning some things that worked well. We liked the show's opening bit, in which Conan O'Brien squelched any rumors of Fallon snubbage by handing over the keys to the Late Night castle in typically self-deprecating fashion. We also thought that the pre-filmed Target Demographics segment was a wry way to address some early criticism that the show might be gravitating too much toward shilliness. And the decision to follow it up with a segment called "Lick It for $10" that seemed like product placement but really wasn't (c'mon guys, Printy Scan and Grass Boy aren't real companies) proves that the production team has their finger on the pulse, and that they're not afraid to play a little inside baseball every now and then*.

*We also liked his desk. The mic was a nice nod to Carson and classic talk-show hosts of yore; the mug played off a bit from the early days of his blog; the pencils are classic Letterman; and the MacBook, despite the fact that it was closed for the entire show, shows off Jimmy's geeky side. We're confident it won't stay closed for long.

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Late Night With Jimmy Fallon [NBC]

Photo: Getty Images