The smartest thing Jimmy Fallon did on his 1st “Tonight Show”: He introduced himself
“At first blush, it seemed incredibly obvious. It may just have been incredibly brilliant,” says James Poniewozik, adding: “Each introduction Fallon made was a chance to frame the story, from the beginning, in a way that could make these longtime Tonight viewers–many of them older–comfortable with him, even while he hopefully brought in new ones.”
Fallon’s debut was strangely muted
“As if determined to distance himself further from the high-octane opening antics of the last new guy who tried to do this job — (Conan) O’Brien — Fallon entered stage center in a muted gray suit,” says Mary McNamara. “And if he didn’t go as far as apologizing for becoming the sixth man to host ‘The Tonight Show,’ he did rigorously, and at times irritatingly, reaffirm his signature humility.”
Fallon’s 1st night was “brilliant”
“Yes, he needs to relax,” says Tom Shales, “and maybe cool it a little with the clapping, the drunk-uncle laughter, the excessive delight at whatever and whoever comes his way-but the sheer force of his apparent happiness is essentially irresistible. Some people spend fortunes and bathe their brains in drugs to create and sustain this kind of bliss; how disheartening it would be to learn that Fallon requires artificial stimuli to reach it, but that seems very, very unlikely. There’s considerable evidence to support the idea that Our Boy Jimmy is as genuine as they come.”
Fallon just needs to cut down on the gratitude and humility
“While gratitude and humility are admirable traits,” says Robert Bianco, “there were times in Monday’s opening moments when Fallon risked taking them to uncomfortable extremes. One more ‘thank you,’ one more ‘I never thought I’d be here,’ and viewers might have wondered whether they wanted to be there themselves.”
Fallon’s expanded new studio looks big, but it isn’t
Only 50 new seats were added and Fallon didn’t want to make the studio too big. As Verne Gay points out, “What the designers did apparently do was blow out the floor space in front of a new proscenium instead – which gives the illusion of expanse – and added that gilded bandstand for the Roots. All in all the studio redesign appears to be a real winner for the show.”
Fallon’s “Tonight Show” is trying to “triangulate” itself to appeal to young and old viewers
“In this first show,” says Darren Franich, “you could marvel at how effectively Fallon and his team have attempted to triangulate themselves. Fallon”s new set is purposefully old-fashioned compared to the college-cafe-in-the-meatpacking-district where he lived on Late Night. But his bit about yearbook awards for Olympic athletes found time for a weed joke and a Saved by the Bell reference (‘Lesbian Screech’), while mixing in rimshots about the Jonas Brothers and Justin Bieber.”
This felt like a “blah” episode of “Late Night”
A “lack of originality pervaded the episode,” says Margaret Lyons, who considers Fallon’s “Tonight Show” debut more of a bland episode than any kind of watershed moment. “It was a respectable episode, fine and functional, but almost overwhelmingly not special,” she says.
Fallon needs to get his interviewing skills in order
“For all his skills as a performer,” says Brian Lowry, “Fallon is still a question mark in terms of his ability to make magic out of nothing at the desk, the place where Johnny Carson and David Letterman thrived – and endured. And frankly, his ‘Aw shucks, I’m just so happy to be here’ posture in Monday’s maiden interviews with Smith and U2 got a little tedious even before the night was over.”
Fallon couldn’t have done a better job with his 1st episode
Most importantly, Jimmy Fallon’s 1st guests showed that they liked him. “People are coming because of your heart,” said Will Smith. “That,” as Tim Goodman, points out, “couldn’t be more true, because it’s the ultimate Fallon hook. He doesn’t offend. He’s nice. He’s happy. He likes to make fun of himself and spoof things without cruelty. He is, in many ways, a better fit than O’Brien.”
That U2 rooftop performance was scary to watch
“The whole thing appeared to be one wind gust away from disaster,” says Hank Stuever. “Jimmy, please don”t take your friends to the roof. Acrophobes everywhere are begging you.”
Having U2 perform in the middle of the show seemed almost revolutionary
Traditionally, late-night shows have musical guests perform at the end, when viewers are tuning out.
Fallon stayed in his comfort zone by using many of his “Late Night” bits
“Yes,” says Sarene Leeds, “Fallon’s Tonight Show is just a brighter, shinier and bigger (no kidding – Fallon was dwarfed by the expanded floor and Johnny Carson-size curtain, and keyboardists James Poyser and Kamal Gray from house band the Roots are no longer relegated to their balcony perches), version of Late Night, but the transition is already way more seamless than the host’s early days on Late Night.”
Letterman acknowledged Fallon’s 1st night with a crack about Leno
“First thing this morning, I get a call from my mom. She says ‘David, did something happen to Jay?’ What am I gonna do?” he asked his audience.
NY Post rails against New York for giving “The Tonight Show” tax breaks when Fallon was never leaving NYC
“Why are New York taxpayers using tax credits to bribe – er, subsidize – these men to do something they intended to do all along?” says the tabloid.
Olympic bobsledder fires back at Fallon
Steven Holcomb didn’t like being called the “most likely to find an old hot wing in his pocket.”
Remember when Fallon was a (kind of) movie star?
Let’s recall Fallon’s disappointing performances in “Taxi” and “Fever Pitch.”