Fallon on Springsteen, Ferguson on ‘Doctor Who,’ and the joy of theme episodes

Senior Television Writer
11.17.10 21 Comments


This blog tends to focus on primetime scripted series because that’s where my interest lies, but the two shows from yesterday’s network slate that interested me most were in late night.

As I wrote about in my Conan pieces last week, the late night talk show is a format that I don’t much care about anymore, even though I quite like all the current late night hosts other than Leno. But in the case of last night’s “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” and “Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson,” what we got weren’t two traditional late night talk show episodes, but wacky, joyful single-topic theme shows – on, respectively, Bruce Springsteen and “Doctor Who.” (And I hope you saw the “Doctor Who” Christmas news earlier today.)

Bruuuuuce was Fallon’s only guest (other than a couch cameo by Steve Van Zandt). He joined him on stage for one of Fallon’s Neil Young impressions, and even dressed as the ’75 version of himself, did a long interview and did two songs with The Roots backing up him, Van Zandt and E Street Band keyboard player Roy Bittain.

Ferguson, meanwhile, had only two guests, and one of them was frequent collaborator Chris Hardwick to answer “Doctor Who” viewer questions, while the only traditional guest was Matt Smith, the current Doctor. Ferguson had a Dalek on stage standing next to his robot sidekick Geoff, carried a sonic screwdriver with him at all times, and even tried to open the show with an elaborate dance number scored to the “Doctor Who” theme, only for it to… well, you can watch the clip below to see what happened. (And at the end of the episode, he brought those same dancers out to apologize to them, and serenade them with “Rainbow Connection.” A damn charming moment from the most charming guy in the field.) 

Now, I’m a Springsteen fan, and a “Doctor Who” fan, so I got an added kick out of both of these, but what was great about both these episodes was that they did away with the all-things-to-all-people problem that often takes over talk shows. (Though Ferguson has mercifully always marched to his own drummer. And it’s not surprising that the weakest part of Fallon’s show was a straightforward, non-Springsteen-related monologue about the day’s headlines.) Though Springsteen had a new box set to promote, there was never a sense that either episode was being done for business reasons; they were being done because Jimmy Fallon worships Bruce Springsteen, and Craig Ferguson frickin’ loves “Doctor Who.” Plain and simple. 

So after the jump, I have the full Fallon show (if you just want to see the Neil Young duet, our own Melinda Newman embedded it on her blog), plus the first big chunk of Ferguson’s show. Hopefully, they’ll give you the same amount of pleasure they gave me.

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