The landscape of NBC’s late night talk programs are changing, with schedules shuffling and shifting in preparation for the new face of “Late Night, Jimmy Fallon.”Premiere week for the show had stacked its’ calendar with the likes of Robert DiNiro, Tina Fey, Drew Barrymore, and Justin Timberlake, but quickly shifted last week to stars farther from the A-list, filling the “Late Night” bill with Amanda Pete, Russell Brand, and Emily Blunt.
Fallon, who took the reins from Conan O’Brien, who is preparing to replace Jay Leno on “The Tonight Show” in June, is new to the hosting game.
He served six years in the ranks of the “Saturday Night Live” cast, in addition to a handful of movie roles, with most of his experience coming from the acting arena.
The format of the show has not shifted much from the time when O’Brien helmed the talk show staple, but with the time allotted for comedy segments shifted to focus more on the guests and Fallon’s interviewing and for good reason.
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This is where the show has shined most since it first started, despite some obvious discomfort in the second week of the show, Fallon has relaxed making for a much more enjoyable watching experience.
Last week’s interactions with Blunt, Brand, and Editor -in-Chief of Engadget.com Joshua Trapolski, all felt natural, with the hosting and comedy roles aptly fulfilled and the awkwardness that plagued much of the first week checked at the door.
One major stumbling point for the show has been the comedy segments and bits as well as the monologue. Though kept short, both the monologues and skits elicited so little laughter from the audience that they have led Fallon to comment on them, telling the audience that there is only one bit or joke left and he “will let them out of their misery soon.”
A particularly misguided segment has to have been a wheel of carpet samples game, where three audience members, (speaking as though previously scripted by someone on Fallon’s staff) spun a wheel of samples for no apparent reason as all were rewarded with gift cards to the Apple store.
The segment left the audience and this viewer with little laughter and ultimately served no purpose other than to kill time.
It bears mentioning, though, that Fallon and his crew of writers are still finding their legs, testing their comedic chops and those of the remaining cast and crew that currently surround them.
While some of the acts range from underdeveloped to a pure lack of judgment in selection, there has been a noticeable improvement from night to night, with the show airing on March 11 being one of the strongest, most cohesive shows put on to date.
An area with absolutely zero faults is the house band for “Late Night,” Philadelphia’s own The Roots. Adeptly performing every night from the host’s introduction to the filler between segments and commercial intros and outros, they not only fit into the show, but makes the show better. And that is just from the music perspective.
The whole band is also engaging and funny when incorporated into segments or plainly addressed by Fallon, bringing another element to the whole equation.
Fallon shows promise, he can bring the funny, but there is a need for definition and refinement in elements of the show, which is something that experience can mold.
In addition, Fallon is the first host of late night to incorporate his website deeply into the show, as well as other web outlets, like Twitter, to engage his new and developing audience.
So is Fallon up to the standards that O’Brien set in his 16 year career as host of “Late Night?” No, not yet, but neither was O’Brien when he took over for Letterman in 1993. He is a likeable guy on TV and on the internet too, interacting with the fans of his show, even asking for constructive criticism so he can improve. If you like late night talk, tune in and give him a chance, just be ready for some growing pains.
Kory Dench is a fourth-year student majoring in English and minoring in Journalism. He can be reached at KD608724@wcupa.edu