With the exit of Jay Leno from The Tonight Show, Jimmy Fallon has entered as the new king of the late night. Fallon formally took over the helm from Leno on Monday with a veritable parade of celebrities appearing on the show including Joan Rivers who was supposedly exiled from the show by Johnny Carson almost 30 years ago. Unlike Leno, who was 42 when he inherited the show from Johnny Carson, and who followed the Carson predictable comedic formula for decades, 39-year-old Fallon has taken charge and already made changes that are a breath of fresh air to a stale time slot.
The first change Fallon made was moving the show from California to New York. The show last filmed in New York in 1972 when Johnny Carson moved it to Los Angeles. Fallon, who became a member of the Saturday Night Live cast in 1998, was born and raised in New York, so it makes perfect sense to bring the show back to where it began and to where Fallon is most at home. It also sends a rather symbolic message that this is not going to be the same show audiences are used to watching.
The late night-time slot once dominated by Leno and Letterman has been evolving over the last decade to include other successful hosts like Conan O’Brien and Jimmy Kimmel, who appeal mainly to a younger audience. The changing landscape of late night TV only serves to promote a new late night king, and NBC is hoping that it is Jimmy Fallon. His brand of comedy appeals to a wide audience that should help to bridge generation gaps in the late night audience. Fallon has a talent for impersonations and parody singing, which enhance his comedic style. He is probably best known for his impressions of Mick Jagger and John Lennon on Saturday Night Live. He was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2003 for his comedy album, The Bathroom Wall, Jimmy Fallon.
The ratings were strong for the first show on Monday night, which aired following a heavily viewed lead-in from the Sochi Winter Olympics. The show also aired a half hour later than normal with a long line of celebrity guests cued up including Will Smith, U2, Stephen Colbert, Mariah Carey, Tina Fey, and former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani among others. The joke of the evening was anyone who said Fallon would never host The Tonight Show owed him $100. Each guest presented Fallon with $100 in their own unique way. The celebrity line up of guests continues all week with Jerry Seinfeld, Tim McGraw, First Lady Michelle Obama, and Justin Timberlake.
The measure of Fallon’s success will certainly come over the next several weeks as the Olympics end and the entourage of celebrity guests and excitement surrounding the host change die down. Fallon will need to work his comedic magic to hold the interest of viewers, who may have grown used to Leno. Fallon will likely also attract a new audience of his followers to the late night viewing audience. With the support of many and a new brand of comedy, Fallon certainly has all the makings of a new late night king.
By Jennifer Bridge