On the morning after Seth Meyers' safe, reasonable, unembarrassing, uninspirational "Late Night with Seth Meyers," two observations, in order of importance:
1.) Never a judge a "Late Night" by its opening night. Conan O'Brien's opener here was judged by the wise solons of the TV critical establishment to be an utter disaster and we know how that turned out. Jimmy Fallon's wasn't terrible, but his first guest -- puckishly picked by Lorne Michaels perhaps as an initiation to torture the newbie -- was Robert De Niro, who grunted his way through the interview. If memory serves (it doesn't), David Letterman's opener was terrific, but he had his successful morning run as a warm-up. He knew exactly what he was doing at the starting gate. But here's the point -- hosts grow along with their shows, and Meyers is a very talented host. Expect growth.
2.) Seth Meyers' opener was disappointing. Not massively disappointing (that would be ridiculous overstatement), but mildly so, and not for anything he did, but for what he seemed largely content to do: follow a charted path that was established deep in the last century without bringing anything particularly new or even mildly revolutionary to the format.
Poor Seth has been given lots of advice, no doubt much of it useless, but here's my advice and it's for him and you to adjudge just how useful or useless this is:
Be revolutionary. Be adventurous. Ignore the past. Forge a path into the future. Make this show your own -- not some some pallid reflection of those who have come before. Meyers -- that's you Seth -- has as much talent and moxie as anyone who's ever been on this show. You led "Saturday Night Live" creatively through a golden era. This is the second chapter -- make "Late Night" even better than "SNL."
Let me restate -- there was nothing bad about last night -- other than the set, but that's a secondary consideration for the moment.
It was competent.
It was professional.
It was pleasant.
But late night is war -- TV war, and pleasantness is not going to be a winning strategy. Late night really is late night -- with the only sentient beings watching inebriated college boys and insomniacs. This is the crowd that you want to be daring in front of, mostly because you have nothing to lose. (And they won't remember the next morning, anyway.) Plus, consider what you're up against in the overall genre - "The Daily Show," which is consistently excellent, and "The Colbert Report" too. You not only have to bring your game every night - but a better game
Make it wild.
Make it unique.
Make it a reflection of your own pure comic fantasies.
Do not make it into what it always was or what someone else thinks it should be. (There is no rule book after all, and if there is, burn it.) Leave the "tradition" to "Tonight" - establish your own tradition (which has long been expected of "Late Night" anyway.)
Go ahead -- keep the format, keep the monologue (that's expected).
Keep the guests. Keep EVERYTHING if you want.
But add that one element that no one else on earth could ever possibly bring, or no host ever has before: Bring your own deep well of talent and personality.
Then, success is assured.