Jimmy Fallon is bringing his own brand to the all-new late night. That is correct: his own brand, although the new host of NBC’s The Tonight Show, Jimmy Fallon, did bring his “The Roots” band (not a new creation) with him from Late Night. Fallon is being lauded and criticized both, as with anyone or anything on this Earth. Some mention his dynamic energy, puppy-like manner, positivity and the fact that he makes people laugh. Others mention his lack of skill with the straightforward interview, especially when compared to Johnny Carson and Jay Leno. What no one seems to be saying, at least not outright, is that Fallon is not Carson or Leno. Yes, that fact is a given, but just to highlight that there will be naysayers and fans, wherever one goes.
Watching The Tonight Show in its opening week is like comfort food for those who loved Fallon’s Late Night format. For Tonight Show traditionalists, on the other hand, there may be a bit of a shake-up. Fallon is not trying to be Carson or Leno, nor should he. Carson is a legend, who no one could reproduce if they tried. As for Leno, he decided to retire—let him. Jimmy Fallon creates his own atmosphere that is part Saturday Night Live, part Jim Henson (whether Sesame Street or The Muppet Show, Henson’s branding seems clear), and part Fallon. The new host brings his own inner 10-year-old to the mix, and though some may frown on that and call him childish, he is what he is. He will be loved, hated, found annoying or hilarious, and for some, maybe a combination.
In the skit “ew!” brought from Late Night, this week the new host played his usual character, Sara (“In case you’re wondering, that’s S-A-R-A, with no H, because H’s are ew!”). He was joined by pal Will Ferrell playing Sara’s BFF, Stacy Wallace. Fallon’s pronunciation (as Sara), or enunciation, makes it seem as though he must have a 9-year-old daughter, complete with accompanying effusion and over-the-top emotions. Sara’s speech is at times unintelligible, sounding like that of a child-character out of something like Planet 51 or some other animated film where alien children speak like over-exaggerated Americans from the 1980s. In fact, Jimmy Fallon has created a daughter off-air, but she is not 9—his own Winnie Rose was born in 2013 and has a lot to look forward to in terms of watching her dad be branded a legend in his own right on The Tonight Show, over the decades he will likely be there. Would Carson have done a skit like “ew!” and invited Jackie Kennedy to appear in her Chanel or Dior clothing? Times have changed. Not only would he not have, but he could not have. To have invited her would likely have either produced its own laughs or gotten him a scandal, and he did have a few of those.
Will Jimmy Fallon have his own scandals, created just because he is following in the footsteps of branded TV titans? Time will tell, but one thing is certain: no matter what you think of him, he is creating titanic traditions that are all his own.
Editorial by Julie Mahfood