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'Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon': So far, so very good

Jerry Seinfeld visited "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy

(Credit: Getty Images / Theo Wargo)

Exactly two weeks in, how's the most important, pivotal and historic programming move of the year - of many years - going so far, referring here of course to "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon"? On the most basic level of them all -- numbers -- almost amazingly well. Thanks to DVR, or time-shifted viewing -- which has essentially become the coin of the realm in late night, making late night TV essentially "watching-the-next-day-during-your-coffee-break" TV -- the show boosted total viewership by 2,000,000 viewers for the first week. That makes for a total of 10.4 million, or the most for one week since Johnny Carson's last week in May of 1992 (just under 20 million -- so, no contest, of course).  And here's the clincher: The average age of that audience is just under 53 years of age, or a drop of around six to seven years in age from Jay's show. Keep in mind -- NBC engineered this whole business as a mean of reversing "Tonight's" graying audience.

  But from a critical perspective, how is this show doing? There's nothing here that suggests I should change my initial impression -- a positive one -- except that maybe I might offer an even more positive spin at this point: This has been an excellent two weeks for Fallon on the air. Sure, the "interviews" often seem more like rolling kaffeeklatsches absent substance, but with plenty of laughs and non sequiturs (the rambling on about the "Rocky" franchise with Paul Rudd, for example). But get past those -- and they do tend to be amusing -- and you have yourself a revitalized, enjoyable, and surprisingly smart new "Tonight."  Fallon's monologues -- of all things! -- have been one of the strong points: Effortless, funny, roll-with-the-punches and smart. Fans knew all along he could nail this show, but the new monologues-on-steroids strategy was certainly something to be concerned about. (Fallon is a fine performer, but he's not a joke machine.) But he's nailed that too.

  Meanwhile, the embedded comedy -- for want of a better term -- has been a standout as well. Here is one example: Last night's "Wastepaper Basketball with LeBron James." Not quite comedy, but a catchy interlude nevertheless. 

 

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