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Highlights from the first, and familiar, 'Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon' (VIDEO)

Fallon, on the 'Tonight Show'

NBC

Fallon, on the 'Tonight Show'

18

February

If Monday night’s premiere of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon is any indication, Fallon isn’t changing much of the winning formula that made his Late Night such a charmer.

Late-night TV viewers will soon decide whether or not that's a good thing.

Fallon’s best traits - his excitement, eagerness, gift for physical comedy, natural charm - were all on display last night, albeit in a classier setting. (The biggest difference about The Tonight Show is the new studio, which looks decidedly more old-fashioned and loungey than his Late Night set.)

Fallon started the show with some heartfelt introductions, for those who haven’t seen him in late-night before, the audience he most has to win over now. He shouldn't have too hard of a time doing so. When Jimmy is humble about getting the gig, it doesn’t feel phony. When he tears up talking about his baby daughter and his parents (who were in the audience), it's easy to buy. You believe that he doesn’t know how he got here - if you would’ve asked most of America 10 years ago who’d succeed Jay Leno as host of the Tonight Show, nobody would have pointed to that goofy kid on SNL who laughed his way through every sketch.

For fans of Late Night, there was little that was surprising in the Tonight Show premiere. That’s to be expected - Fallon brought along practically everyone involved with his old show to the new one: the Roots (who he says he couldn’t do the show without, and he’s right); announcer Steve Higgins, who’s crucial to Jimmy’s willingness to be silly.

And the components of the show were also similar:

  • There was the post-monologue bit, Tonight Show Superlatives, something that popped up on Late Night often, where Jimmy shows photos of athletes (in this case, Olympians, natch) and declares who’s Most Likely to Find an Old Hot Wing in His Pocket or Most Likely to Be Able to Turn Water Into Weed. You get the idea.
  • The fun, guaranteed-to-go-viral segment, this time the Evolution of Hip-Hop Dancing with Will Smith.
  • The interview, with Smith, who proved to be a great, high-energy first guest. Plus, he picks up on the draw of Jimmy's iteration of the Tonight Show: "People are coming for your heart," he tells Jimmy.
  • And, the highlight of last night’s show, proof that Fallon has plenty of celebrity friends in New York willing to show up for him. After Fallon looked into the camera to tell that one buddy who never thought he’d be the host of the Tonight Show that he owes him 100 bucks, a cavalcade of celebs (Rudy Giuliani, Robert DeNiro, Tina Fey, Joan Rivers, Kim Kardashian, Seth Rogen, Sarah Jessica Parker, Mike Tyson - the list goes on) came out to deposit $100 bills on his desk. The best part? His timeslot rival Stephen Colbert came out last to pay him with pennies and offer these well wishes: “Welcome to 11:30, b----!” Indeed.

We'll see this week whether Fallon can draw the kind of positive reviews and ratings (which are expected to be pretty good this week because of his Olympics lead-in) that can put him on top in the late-night wars. Welcome to 11:30, Fallon. We can't wait to see what you do here.

[Last modified: Tuesday, February 18, 2014 10:32pm]

    

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