Carson to Leno to Fallon
By Valerie Milano
Pasadena, CA (Hollywood Today) 2/18/14 -
” You go to bed with a smile on your face. And that’s our job.” Jimmy Fallon
So the champagne bottle was broken across the hull. A new, fashion- forward Tonight Show has set out to sea on a voyage of undetermined length. The quality of the premiere suggests The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon will enjoy a long and stable reign. And, one thing is for sure, the new Tonight Show has a decidedly New York state of mind.
New host Jimmy Fallon is passionate about preserving the traditional accoutrements that have made The Tonight Show such a fixture in American culture. The show is returning to Carson’s old New York studio. The Tonight Show logo is a full moon that is an obvious homage to The Honeymooners sitcom. We still get the topical monologue, the desk, the couch, and the straight-man announcer. Clearly, Fallon still wants The Tonight Show to remain safe harbor for those boomers weary of too many options on cable.
However, NBC didn’t hire Fallon to simply entertain the choir; he’s expected to haul in a younger demographic who remembers Fallon as a star on SNL. It’s also a demographic for whom 11:30 p.m. is the new 09:00 p.m.
Towards that end Fallon is trying to construct a big-tent show and contemporize the franchise. For example, the house band, The Roots are a bold statement with their ornery urban funk. And, in the show’s first sketch, we find Fallon expertly running through the history of Hip-Hop dancing with guest Will Smith. Fallon is intent on maintaining a baseline level of street-cred.
Fallon’s personal brand of comedy eschews the lantern-jawed snark appeal of Jay Leno and the caffeinated riffing of Conan O’Brien. In Fallon, it’s easy to see the tailored mannerisms of Johnny Carson in monologue mode. And, at the interview desk, Fallon is a throw- back to the low-key, metrosexual cool of previous Tonight Show monarch Jack Parr.
There were big moments on Monday’s premiere. U2 played on the roof of 30 Rock in the freezing cold 70 stories above the amazing backdrop of the Manhattan skyline. Another home run was the bit where Fallon humbly admonished a ‘close friend’ who bet him a 100 dollars he would never host The Tonight Show. On cue, Robert DeNiro emerged from back stage and plops a 100 dollar bill on the desk. As does Joe Namath, Julia Roberts, Mike Tyson, Lady GaGa, Joan Rivers…..the cavalcade of media giants continued until Stephen Colbert emerged and grumpily dumped a hundred dollars worth of pennies on Fallon’s desk before treating himself to a “selfie” with the new host before leaving.
However, the litmus test for any Tonight Show host is the monologue. Due to the opening night hype and hoopla, Fallon felt it necessary to be his own warm up and explain his mission as the new host and thank his family and friends for their support. His comments were so earnest and heartfelt; I thought he was setting up a bit. Just as this reviewer was beginning to gaze longingly at the remote, Fallon broke off the preamble and announced his intention to demonstrate how the show will normally open. Fallon re-booted the show on a dime and fell into his late night groove without missing a beat.
Jimmy Fallon is ready for his close up.
Hollywood Today and other journalists at the recent TCA press tour had the opportunity to speak with the Jimmy Fallon and shows producer Josh Lieb.
Fallon was asked if he aspired to the same longevity as former hosts Johnny Carson and Jay Leno, JIMMY FALLON: “I’m 39 now. Yeah, I could stay. If I’m lucky enough, I’d love to stay that long. It’s crazy to even think that way. I’m happy I’m here five years at Late Night. We’re just having a good time. I never knew it would end up you think that this is the way to go to get to The Tonight Show, but now that The Tonight Show is happening, I don’t know. I’m just going to play it by ear and keep my head down and just work as hard as I can and see how long that gets me.”
Fallon spoke about his relationship with Jay Leno during the transition,
JIMMY FALLON: He called me and said, “I think this is going to be the year,” and I said, “All right.” And he goes, “I’d love for you to be the next guy. I think you’re going to be great.”
After decades in Los Angeles, The Tonight Show returns to its New York roots. Fallon talked about the transition, JIMMY FALLON: “It wasn’t easy. For me, it kind of wasn’t a real option. I mean, I grew up – I was born and raised in New York. I live in New York with my wife, and we now have a little 6 month old baby, and she’s very cute. And so when I talked to NBC and Steve Burke, I just said, “I think New York.” I already talked with Lorne about it, Lorne Michaels, and I said, “We should bring it back.” It could be a good I mean, it’s been out here for 40 something years. It started in New York. Why not bring it back to New York? What’s going to happen? What’s the worst that can happen? It’s just a beautiful city. I think of New York, I think of nighttime. I just think it’s the perfect place, where it should be. I think of the lights and Times Square and Broadway and nightlife and the excitement and the glitz and the glamour of all that is The Tonight Show.”
Fallon talked about his earliest memories of The Tonight Show and his destiny,
JIMMY FALLON: “I just thought he kind of came with the TV, and I would beg my parents to stay up and watch that because I knew it was on really late and I was getting away with something. And then I’d watch, and you’d get a laugh, and you go, you know, “Wow, that’s really cool.” Like a lot of people are saying, “Is this your dream job?” And my answer is it wasn’t at all my dream job because I didn’t know that this could be a job that you could dream about. I mean, this is Johnny Carson. I didn’t know what retirement is. When I’m younger, I’m just watching him and enjoying him. I think, you know, if I had a dream job, it would probably be to work at IBM where my dad worked. And I just thought, well, if I can get a job like my dad, I’d get a house like this. I’d get a life like him. That would be awesome. That was the thing. So the fact that there’s going to be a kid out there asking their parents, “Can I stay up late to watch the ‘The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon’?” means a lot to me, and I kind of get the importance of that and how cool that is, and I hope I do a good job for that kid……”