News, scoops, reviews and more from TV land.
NBC has a good new drama: How many times have you read those words anywhere over the last year? Even though "The Blacklist" was certainly good, and "Hannibal" has emerged as the real deal, and -- hey! -- a lot of people even liked the launch of "Believe" last Sunday (myself included), the network has been scratching to get back in the elite drama game, with mixed results.
But Sunday has a...Read more »
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.
Reasonably insanely big news for all fans of "Heroes:" In a word (or two), it's back. But the even bigger news: It's back with Tim Kring at the helm. A 13-episode "standalone" series arrives in 2015. (Yes, that's next year...)
NBC has announced that the promo, no doubt, will air on tonight's Olympics, and we can all finally wonder - at long last - whether a cheerleader will save the world. (On that note - no word about casting.) Of course this all seems part of a one-show trend - "24" is back in May. "Heroes" will have a chance to recapture some magic next year...
The ever-so-slightly hyperbolic statement from the boss (but yes, it's still exciting news):
"The enormous impact ‘Heroes’ had on the television landscape when it first launched in 2006 was eye-opening,” said NBC Entertainment President Jennifer Salke. “Shows with that kind of resonance don’t come around often and we thought it was time for another installment. We’re thrilled that visionary creator Tim Kring was as excited about jumping back into this show as we were and we look forward to all the new textures and layers Tim plans to add to his original concept. Until we get closer to air in 2015, the show will be appropriately shrouded in secrecy, but we won’t rule out the possibility of some of the show’s original cast members popping back in.”
Garrick Utley, the veteran NBC News correspondent, anchor and host of "Meet the Press," has died, NBC announced on its air Friday morning.
Below, the clip from the "Today" show, with which Utley was also long associated. Utley, as longtime viewers of network news will attest, was a deeply serious newsman (his parents were also correspondents for NBC News radio) who believed that television...Read more »
So maybe you've had a chance to see the new “Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.“ Well...what did you think? Share thoughts if you like, but in the meantime here are some of mine — in no particular order, and because Tuesday's print story was not exactly a review, per se, allow me to use this space to offer a brief critical perspective. And away we go.
* U2 and the 70th floor: Let's begin with the breakout star of the first edition — U2's reasonably mind-blowing performance of "Invisible" without an apparent safety net — only air separating one of the world's most famous bands and concrete 872-feet below. This is a famous piece of real estate within a famous piece of real estate — that famous Depression-era photo, "Lunchtime Atop a Skyscraper" was shot here back in the early '30s when the building was nearing completion: Workers sitting on a steel beam high above the streets, eating lunch without helmets. Hard to say whether this confined space has even been used to such spectacular effect since, but Monday night ranks as one of the standout moments for certain, It occurred to me, maybe you, that this could be used again for the same purpose, but the risks seem considerable enough to suggest that this will be one of those one-time-only events...
* The reborn Studio 6B which Fallon vacated last year for this rebirth appeared much larger than the old "Late Night" space, but that may be one of those Trompe-l'œil's TV excels at: Shot from above, it appears vast, but the clues as to real size appeared at the end of the show when Jimmy was scaling the stairs. Maybe not so huge — in fact, only 50 new seats were added. NBC initially was of a mind to blow out a floor (probably up to the 7th) to really make the space huge, but cost (many millions, conservatively, and many millions more realistically) became prohibitive and Fallon didn't really want the larger space. He's said in interviews that he doesn't particularly like playing to balconies. What the designers did apparently do was blow out the floor space in front of a new proscenium instead — which gives the illusion of expanse — and added that gilded bandstand for the Roots. All in all the studio redesign appears to be a real winner for the show.
* Model of the New York skyline behind the host's desk? Sure you've seen that before, or something similar — "Late Show with David Letterman" in the early days had a skyline model behind Dave's desk, complete with a little working toy subway train (the butt of many good jokes...) The backdrop on Dave's set is still very New York-dramatic (a bridge span seen through a pair of big windows behind the host's desk and gives the impression of 3-D, but the old model of the toy city is gone.)
* The monologue was just seconds shy of 12 minutes — actually a combination of introductory comments, followed by jokes — and that's the length to expect going forward. But of note, you may have noticed this wasn't a pound-out-the-jokes style of monologue but one embedded with prepared bits — pictures of Olympics stars, for example, and their "most likely to become" predictions from high school, etc. Expect this to be standard operating procedure going forward — fewer jokes, more embedded sketch material, playing off the day's news. Fallon's not Leno — an industrial strength joke machine, and 12 minutes of joke after joke (after joke) would be a killing pace for someone like him, nor one that would play to his strengths anyway. This seems like a smart solution.
* Will Smith — Why the first interview? Why not! He's got deep ties, no doubt, to Universal and if he doesn't have a movie to sell today, he will tomorrow. He and Fallon do have a good rapport, and Smith seems to genuinely like the new host. This interview did point up one of Fallon's weaknesses however — a tendency to be obsequious, to be incurious... The Fallon interview as a matter of course tends to be light on information, heavy on banter. His questions are barely questions — more like prompts. In this regard, he is a massive departure from Johnny Carson — a superb interviewer, and even Jimmy Kimmel, an excellent one as well. Kimmel in fact has a journalist's eye and ear — he probes, and asks follow-ups, and if not fearless usually doesn't shy from asking hard questions. That's not Fallon — not remotely — but now that he's in the big seat, a degree of inquisitiveness is essential. After all, he's also competing with Jon Stewart — who is one of TV's best interviewers, comedy or news.
* Yeah, that was Lindsay Lohan you saw last night — along with a few dozen other camera-shy celebrities. That $100 bet sketch was a standout of the night — not quite a U2 score, but close enough. It maybe went on too long if anything before the perfect Colbert kicker arrived. But this points out one obvious thing here — Fallon is not working without a net. He has an excellent stable of writers back there behind the big blue curtain; his EP, Josh Leib, worked with Jon Stewart
Bottom line: Good strong start for Jimmy Fallon. Just about everything worked, and worked well, from the opening credits to the final ones. The energy and beauty of New York City was incorporated in a way that exceeded even my expectations — happily exceeded them. Meanwhile, The host: A bit nervous, understandably, he nonetheless reminded fans and people who have never heard of him why he's here. A talented performer who disarms his guests, he is a pure distillation of human likability and charm. Yeah, he needs to work on the interviews, and yeah — you, or at least I — would like just the slightest degree of comic-effect acerbity: That Jack Benny double-take to the camera, or that David Letterman hard edge, or that Jimmy Kimmel bite, or that Jon Stewart refusal to suffer any fool gladly... But Fallon is Fallon. If he goes with his strengths, which are considerable, he should do fine.
It's here, and he's here too — Jimmy Fallon, "The Tonight Show," and television history, for after not quite half a century, this great television franchise has returned to its birthplace. My story in tomorrow's Newsday. Bottom line: Good start.
After a nearly a 42-year absence, the prodigal "Tonight Show" returned home Monday night, with a new host, Jimmy Fallon, and one emphatic nod (or...Read more »
Tom Brokaw, the veteran network TV newsman and former anchor of "NBC Nightly News," has been diagnosed with multiple myeloma, according to a statement released late Tuesday by the network and Brokaw.
Brokaw, who was scheduled to be in Sochi covering the Winter Olympics as a correspondent, also released a statement saying, in part, "With the exceptional support of my family, medical team and friends, I am very optimistic about the future and look forward to continuing my life, my work and adventures still to come."
According to NBC's statement, Brokaw had learned that he had cancer in August, at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. The statement added, "his doctors are optimistic about the outcome of the treatment he is receiving, and Brokaw said he remains 'the luckiest guy I know.' "
Brokaw, 74, was named co-anchor of "NBC Nightly News" in 1982, with Roger Mudd, and became solo anchor a year later. Under Brokaw, "Nightly" would become television's most-watched evening newscast, during a long-running battle with Peter Jennings' "ABC World News Tonight." He closed his run on Dec. 1, 2004. Brokaw has remained a prominent figure on NBC, including replacing Tim Russert for a few months on "Meet the Press" following Russert's death in 2008.
Amy Lynn, an NBC News spokeswoman, said Brokaw, who is not in Sochi, has "two pieces that will air within our coverage."
During Tuesday night's "Nightly News," anchor Brian Williams said Brokaw -- an avid outdoorsman and world traveler -- had told him he plans to "join [Bruce] Springsteen's Australian summer tour just to give the boss a bump of added publicity."
Oh sure, Jay Leno's final "Tonight Show" was good -- funny, brisk, lively. Billy Crystal and Garth Brooks were excellent as guests, for they clearly wanted to be there and made the best of an a opportunity that yielded little in terms of professional accomplishment but everything in terms of a personal one, which is rare in show business.
But Leno saved his best for last -- specifically the last eight minutes of this last show when he choked up, pulled the full frame of his body up to his chin in a vain effort to control his emotions -- fleetingly evoking a human-sized Cabbage Patch doll -- and then let the tears fall.
It was a moment, or several of them, that we've never seen of Leno, as though a curtain came up to reveal the real man. Gratifyingly, it was the real man we have always suspected Leno to be.
He thanked his viewers -- didn't call them "fans" -- then he moved on to his family. His mother died early in his run, then his father, and a year after that, his brother, Patrick. "I was pretty much without family," he said, and then -- referring to 200-or-so people who have helped him run this machine called "The Tonight Show" for the past 22 years said, "and the folks here became my family."
For good measure, he added proudly that "Tonight Show" was always a "union shop . . ." (That may well have been a veiled rebuke to the Writer's Guild, which slammed him years ago for writing his monologues during one of the writers' strike, or for something like that. But so what? It was his last show. Jay got in the last word.)
What was so terrific about these last few seconds was the simple fact that Leno -- finally stripped down bare to the emotional studs so to speak, with nothing separating the real person from the millions who have supported him for decades -- did not revert to form and did not hide. He spoke from a heart we've only rarely seen glimpses of over these years, even wrung raw emotion from a heart we knew was there, but hardly ever saw.
And what we saw, in the end, was something -- someone -- both generous and fundamentally decent. The real Jay Leno, ladies and gentlemen.
It was the perfect way to end because it confirmed what everyone -- certainly his supporters if not his detractors -- have suspected all along. Here it is again.
It is strange and mysterious and odd and weird and...altogether fitting that Jay Leno's last day at "The Tonight Show" is also Michael J. Fox's last day at NBC (if you're just catching up, "The Michael J. Fox Show" has been canceled and remaining episodes will be burned off elsewhere...)
And this all means "what?"
With your forbearance, let me take a stab at that question: What it means...Read more »
"The Michael J. Fox Show," certainly among the more anticipated series of the 2013-14 season given that name in the title, has been canceled by NBC, according to reports in Variety and the Hollywood Reporter.
The show -- starring a beloved TV figure who will endure no significant harm to reputation or stature despite this failure -- struggled almost from the opening bell. In recent weeks, the sitcom about a New York TV anchor with Parkinson's (yes, of course, Fox) who returns to work, mustered barely two or even three million viewers in the first viewing.
Unclear at this moment whether the show will complete its full season run, although networks have been known to burn off episodes in the summer.