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"The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon" had a particularly clever pre-taped sketch on last night's edition -- what the Beatles would have done had they been inflected with all the ephemera that goes with today's marketing-saturated world. (Or simply titled, "The Beatles Were Way Ahead of Their Time.")
But was it also a bit nefarious -- a commercial for no fewer than THREE PRODUCTS? (Red Bull, Instagram and another household name, which escapes me for the moment?) Or to rephrase: Was it on one hand a sendup of marketing overkill; on the other hand, part of the marketing overkill by selling the stuff it mentions, like Red Bull?
I am told...no. This was not a paid integration, per NBC. .
So score one for Jimmy. Product integration is out there and it's sneaky - but you don't really want it on shows like "Tonight." Simple as that.
It was a very good bit - take a look if you missed.
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 »
Jay Leno is rolling out of "The Tonight Show" in three days, and Jimmy Fallon is rolling in - starting Feb. 17 - and so last night came the obligatory entrance interview: Jimmy's. It was all nice and gracious and thank yous were exchanged. (No addresses - they know where to find each other.) If you happened to have missed...
(Newsday app readers please go to Newsday.com/tvzone...)
Jay Leno is leaving "The Tonight Show" next week, but on Friday, CNN will air this:
After an incredible run on top, Jay Leno is wrapping up his reign on The Tonight Show. Jay Leno: Mr. Comedy airing Friday, January 31st at 10pm ET on CNN, looks back at how Leno earned his stripes on the comedy club circuit in the 70’s, made his first splash on TV in the 80’s and then, in the 90’s, took...Read more »
Over the past two days, there have been two major television interviews with Jay Leno -- first, Sunday night on "60 Minutes," and again Monday morning on the "Today" show. In both instances, he more or less rules out a return to late night. But what about other times of the day? That subject --- if not exactly that question -- came up in his exit interview with the Hollywood Reporter, posted Monday morning.
It's a good and far-ranging interview, and once again, Jay expresses a sense that the transition is fine with him, and adds a little supporting evidence by saying that in fact he was supposed to stay until September (that's known) but that NBC wanted him to move aside six months earlier to give Jimmy Fallon a big prelaunch platform with the Olympics -- but that NBC assured him his staff would be paid through September. He indicates that this goodwill gesture was certainly appreciated.
But what about that "what's next" question? He tells THR there have been lots of offers but when he's asked about his relationship with CNN chief Jeff Zucker, he certainly doesn't pointedly rule out a move to the cable network -- a 10 p.m. show has been rumored, in part because there's a widespread industry expectation that Piers Morgan's contract will not be renewed, and that he'll be moved aside by midyear. Here's Jay (Lacey Rose, THR's smart reporter on the TV beat handles this adroitly):
There's been talk about Jeff Zucker expressing interest in you for CNN. A lot of people are interested . . . But you and Zucker have a rich history, including the chapter when he dumped you for Conan. There's no grudge? No, because Jeff believed in "The Tonight Show." When we did "The Tonight Show" [during his tenure atop NBC], if there was a big star in New York and we wanted them tomorrow night, Jeff would say, "Authorize the jet. Find $25,000. We want them." Boom. Those kinds of things don't necessarily happen anymore.
What happens now? It's just different. Jeff comes from a talk show background. He did the "Today" show, so he understands what's necessary for a daily show. You do whatever you have to do to get guests, no matter what it costs. You worry about it later. He was always very helpful that way. The fact that other things didn't work out? OK, I get it.
Jimmy Fallon takes over "The Tonight Show" on Feb. 17, but one must have guests if one is to have one's own "Tonight Show," and NBC announced the first of them Sunday: Will Smith and... U2.
Smith headlines the upcoming movie "Focus," and U2, which also needs no introduction -- and is also fresh off a Golden Globes win for the song "Ordinary Love," from "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom -- will release its first album in five years later in 2014.
Jimmy Fallon becomes host of "The Tonight Show" on Feb. 17, which means ... it's time for the promos!
Here's the first one, released Saturday, and while some may parse what it all means -- such as is there enough Leno here, or is the sequence of hosts correct, etc.? -- best not to bother your pretty little heads with that useless exercise. It's a promo. It's designed to sell. Nothing more. Nothing less.
By the way, there's a huge promo on NBC Sunday night -- "Best of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" at 9. This should be amusing as Fallon's "Late Night" run has been a reasonably major success; after all, it got the host a new gig.
There's a prominent report in the Hollywood Reporter on Wednesday morning that says CNN chief Jeff Zucker has approached Jay Leno about a late night show after his "Tonight" reign ends early next year. No surprise -- it's been speculated about often, and an approach by Zucker makes all the sense in the world. (I'm kidding, kidding. Can't you take a joke?)
After all, CNN is a news...Read more »