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Opinion: Jimmy Fallon might fall flat, Seth Meyers could prove bland in late night swap

February 16, 2014

cooper.487@osu.edu
Jay Leno and Jimmy Fallon in the press room at the 70th Annual Golden Globe Awards held at The Beverly Hilton Hotel Jan. 13. Leno confirmed that he’s leaving ‘The Tonight Show’ in spring 2014 with Fallon as his replacement, NBC said in a statement.  Credit: Courtesy of MCT

Jay Leno (left) and Jimmy Fallon in the press room at the 70th Annual Golden Globe Awards held at The Beverly Hilton Hotel Jan. 13.
Credit: Courtesy of MCT

NBC’s late night talk show saga is set to make another step in its journey.

Jay Leno’s 22-year run on “The Tonight Show” and Jimmy Fallon’s five years on “Late Night” have come to an end — with a promotion for the latter and a step away from a famous set for the former.

Leno announced he was leaving “The Tonight Show” in April, and Fallon was named his replacement soon after. Former “Saturday Night Live” “Weekend Update” anchor Seth Meyers, a segment Fallon also used to host on the show, was named Fallon’s “Late Night” successor, a slot he is set to fill Feb. 25.

Fallon’s “Tonight Show” reign is set to begin Monday.

These host adjustments are moves that will make a big difference in how NBC’s talk show lineup looks for years moving forward.

“The Tonight Show” should get a much different look with Fallon behind the desk. Fallon’s “Late Night” was better than I thought it would be when he took over as host in 2009, but it was still full of faults.

His talents were certainly on display, with many of his musical impressions and skits, such as “#hashtag” and “Joking Bad” becoming viral hits.

However, those brief clips were really the highlight of the shows. When you actually watched an episode, it was pretty clear how much he struggled through his interviews, often stammering and giggling throughout, as shown in his conversations with Kate Upton and Justin Timberlake. On a show like “The Tonight Show,” where the interviews are everything to the studios who count on the talk show’s ratings for publicity, this could be a problem.

And that’s where the main problem with Fallon hosting “The Tonight Show” lies. On a smaller show like “Late Night,” he had more of a free reign to do fun songs and bits. But when the show is taken so seriously by a major network because its time slot is early enough that greater demographics are tuning in, he needs to be a more serious host.

That’s not to say that he should retire his “History of Rap” and his Neil Young impression. After all, those are what made him popular enough to be worthy of the initial promotion from NBC. But it’s definitely a different animal to which he will have to adapt.

As for Meyers, consider me one of the skeptics that he has what it takes to be consistently entertaining. He always struck me as bland, both when he was a regular “SNL” cast member and during his long run as “Weekend Update” anchor. I feel he lacks personality, has limited comedic range and mediocre delivery, and he got the “Late Night” gig by default, because there was nobody else on the horizon to take it.

Still, I am willing to give him a chance to see what he can bring. It will certainly be a much different show than Fallon’s, mainly because Meyers does not have the natural talents to carry a show by himself. Having Fred Armisen on board as the band leader should initiate some good dialogue, and hopefully help take some of the pressure off Meyers.

I do expect Meyers’ interviewing skills to be stronger than Fallon’s, which also makes me think that maybe Meyers would be a better fit to replace Leno, while Fallon sits better in his old show. But that would also be a pretty unfair move, with Fallon not getting rewarded for his years of hard work while Meyers gets the coveted gig without any late night show experience.

Either way, it should be interesting to see how this turns out. NBC is arguably the historical leader when it comes to talk shows, but it is not without its mistakes (the Conan O’Brien “Tonight Show” fiasco of 2010, of course, comes to mind). Fallon will still bring the laughs although he might be lacking the professionalism and while Meyers might be a little boring, he more closely fits the mold of a traditional talk show host.

At the very least, “SNL” creator and producer Lorne Michaels must be smiling as he sees two more of his protégés excel.


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