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Review: Jimmy Fallon's first night

NBC's remaking of late-night network television began Monday night with Jimmy Fallon'sFallon assumption of the chair formerly occupied by Conan O'Brien, who is preparing to occupy the chair soon to be formerly occupied by Jay Leno, who is moving down into prime time. Such passings of the mike happen rarely: Openings in late-night are as few and far between as on the Supreme Court bench, and when filled tend to be occupied for a similar length of time, which makes the premiere of "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon" epochal by definition, irrespective of content or execution.

Fallon is an eager, amiable fellow of 34 who spent several seasons on "Saturday Night Live," specializing in characters who but for the the grace of god, one feels, he might easily have become himself: a tech support guy, a morning radio host, a college student doing his comedy into a webcam. Though I've never found him exactly compelling, he's a friendly presence and the late-night role seems on the face of it a good fit — "Weekend Update" already showed that he can deliver topical one-liners while wearing a suit, at any rate. On his opening night, he seemed nervous but happy.

It was not a bad beginning, in spite of offering notoriously poor interview Robert De Niro as the first guest. (Fallon had prepared a list of questions that could be answered in a word, but the comic effect was negligible, and the interview was in fact poor.) The actor's mere presence was a sort of benediction in itself, nonetheless, and he consented to participate in a throwaway "Space Train" sketch and to impersonate Fallon, who impersonated him, in a bit recycled from "SNL." And next guest Justin Timberlake, an old friend of "SNL," was comfortable and amusing enough for the three of them.

A nicely downbeat cold opening featured Conan O'Brien clearing out his stuff from the dressing room. ("Will you be taking Jay's old dressing room when you go to L.A.?" "Jay isn't leaving.") The following monologue was a thing of its kind — that is, not as funny as you'd like — delivered with occasional grimaces and grunts and hand in pocket Johnny Carson-style. There was a slickly made short film on the blond mom target demographic ("They purchase expensive items like minivans, but also everyday items like yogurt, Williams-Sonoma flatware, personalized checks and discreet dolphin tattoos that say I'm two chardonnays away from ruining your wedding") and a bit in which audience members were invited to lick a lawn mower, a copy machine, a goldfish bowl. Musical guest Van Morrison finished the evening with a shambling "Sweet Thing."

"My only competition is sleep," Fallon has been saying in interviews, conveniently forgetting Craig Ferguson, his actual and estimable competition (along with the back half of Jimmy Kimmel's somewhat more forgettable, less estimable midnight show). Ferguson has created something original and personal over on CBS, and whether Fallon will get to be nearly as good, or even mount a decent interview with a person he doesn't already know, remains to be seen.

But it was an encouraging start. A series of pre-premiere "test shows" (from which emerged one viral video, Jack "Kenneth the Page" McBrayer's response to Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal) allowed the host to hit the ground running, or at least not stumbling. In Fallon's defense, if he needs one, this is a form that develops in the fullness of time, as chances are taken and limits tested and you learn the things you can learn only in the doing, night after night after midnight.

— Robert Lloyd

Photo: NBC

Comments () | Archives (34)

I loved it, I am a realist though, He was nervous and the "Lick This" bit needs to go, but overall amazing start and I was already more entertained than Leno even though Fallon could learn from Leno's ease with the interview. He's still no Conan, but neither was Conan on his first show. Can't wait till June.

Jimmy Fallon was HORRIBLE
I never liked him, I'll admit, but I really wanted to, and intently had an open mind, I liked the first minute or so with Conan.. Then it juts became aggravatingly unfunny. They had months, months to prepare and all they could come up with was some lame jokes and to have the audience lick things.. I started fast forwarding through it the second he starting singing with the roots, continued through the licking segmant, tried to watch deniro and then that was it. This show is lame. It will not last.

how did they not mention slow jam the news that was the best part of the show

FALLON rarely paused to let his guests speak. He acted like a junior high school kid much of the time. Advice: Hey Fallon, knock off the phony naiveté. You displayed the same during your guest appearances on Letterman. It's gotten old. You “graduated” from SNL years ago. Just because your daddy was in the audience for your show's premiere doesn’t mean you have to act like a child. Grow up, try some new stuff, and zip it when your guests could be sharing something with the audience.
GOOD aspects of show: The ROOTS, and VAN the MAN. What a huge contrast in quality between the show's host and the musicians. Don't count on the Roots to carry you, Fallon. Instead, try stepping it up to their level. Good luck.

Was looking forward to the premiere. Enjoyed the short bit with Conan, nice hand-off. Ended up switching over to watch Craig after the dismal 'Lick This' and didn't bother switching back. Granted it was the first night, I'll try it again after some time passes.

I think Robert DeNiro was the worst part of this show. I can understand completely Fallon's desire to have big names on this first week. I think that DeNiro should have been way more accommodating to him. It's his first show for god sakes, him just sitting there giving one word answers was completely inappropriate. It's not Fallon's fault DeNiro's last movie sucked.

He made ME feel nervous. If I hadn't stayed till the end I might have missed the very relaxed Justin Timberlake. The contrast made clear the distance Mr. Fallon has to travel to get me to switch from the comfortable vibe of Craig F. on CBS. My demographic is winding down and turning in at 11:35 and I bet, turning off this show.

I thought Jimmy Fallon did alright. Robert DeNiro was really awful to him and now I'm not really a fan of Deniro for that stunt.. He looked miserable and honestly I felt bad for Jimmy Fallon. Honestly, i thought he tried and did alright, good work for having the guts. good job Jimmy Fallon

Look its his first show. Most of the stuff he did is his style of comedy. Give him a chance. Conan was awful when he started. Leno not much better. But both turned out great.

I agree mostly on the Fallon tip, but are you kidding me about Ferguson? Have you ever watched the show?


Original voice in Late Night? Come on, dude.

If anyone is missing any Botox...check Jimmy's forehead. I was embarrased throughout the show for him

i actually think he did great. It was his first so you cant be expecting the greatest thing ever, but i think he did really well.

he needs to work on reading those cue cards...

Jimmy is going to be fine. I think he did a better job than when Conan first start, as I recall. Conan was BRUTAL early on, especially during the monologue. I think Jimmy has that SNL background and vibe that will suit him well. He probably won't have the depth of wit that Conan does but he makes up for it in musical talent and impersonation. Plus, Jimmy also has that young, new generation thing going, to relate to the Facebook generation.

I'm not sure what to make of "Bob" DeNiro. First of all, his hair was just crazy looking - but not in a cool entertainer way, but in a bummy way. Second, guy would not put out. I don't think he's normally like that is he? He was trying to be in his mobster persona -- "little bit, little bit"? I heard that he actually is a little shy when he's not in a position to act, so perhaps that's it. It's pretty interesting that of the greatest entertainers (e.g. the King of Pop) are actually shy when it comes to dealing with people without a script.

Timberlake was kind of funny but come on -- let's get away from the Bee Gees bit. I didn't think that John Mayer impersonation was all that good. I did like the Michael McDonald voice.

Anyway, I think Jimmy will settle down in a few weeks. He should definitely bring his guitar out and make his show his own. OK, I said not to do SNL bits, but I can't wait to see him and Horatio Saenz together again -- it will be like two crazy fraternity brothers meeting up. Tina Fey coming back should be interesting -- but I suspect Jimmy is going to be a little rigid as he interviews her and is the host, instead of the co-host sitting next to her reading newspaper clippings.

Give him some time. Btw, I think Jimmy Kimmel is horrible. He needs Adam Carrolla in a big way, to be his side kick.

I think Fallon has amazing potential. I think Deniro sort of dragged him down, but for a first show that was great. Just imagine how shows of the future will be. I'm very exited.

Was hoping Jimmy would laugh at all his own jokes, instead he licked and sucked.

watched him cause he's likeable enough, horrible show! i'm switching back to Craig Ferguson, then sleep... or just sleep. jimmy is sweet enough, but this ranks up with that taxi movie with queen latifa... or a really bad SNL skit that wouldn't end...

Agree that Lick it for 10 must go. It was beyond horrible. What are they - The Price is Right?

Fallon is also way too nervous. But I like the set and the band.

Not giving up on it yet.

Jimmy Fallon has always had a habit of not wanting to share a stage with anyone. I have seen him do it as a guest on various late-night chat shows. And just as I figured, he did the same as host. It seems as if Mr. Fallon deems himself so singularly funny and important that anyone else or what they might have to say is beside the point. Now if he had a perfect singing voice, was astoundingly good-looking or a comic genius, like Robin Williams, this might be excusable. Fallon is decidedly a minor key talent like so many SNLers. To make matters wose, he is a huge phony. The false naivete referenced in another post grates the nerves. It appears he is praising the said person in such way so as to suggest that he is giving his plaudits from the ether in which such an astounding talent like himself must reside. Hey celeb you are pretty good says "the Great Fallon." Yech!!!! Surely NBC could have found someone else to fill this spot. Fallon was always only marginally funny and he doesn't seem to have gotten any new material since his SNL days. I loved the Conan O'Brien show. It was smart and funny and puerile and smutty and a little bit nuts at times. It was great. While Leno, can't stand his far-left arse at this point, and Conan might not have been the greatest at the outset of their shows, they were both likable guys. Jimmy Fallon doesn't start with that on his side.

I'm sick of every bad review of this awful show's comments section including at least one or two comments saying that it took Conan months or years before he 'hit his stride', because I watched every show on the first season of Conan and he actually got more annoying as the years went on. But the writing was top-notch from day one, and that is the difference. The people writing for Fallon should be fired. "The Year 2000" was one of Conan's first bits, and compare that to Fallon's "Licking Things" bit. The latter seems like a prank on the audience in comparison.

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