Is Jimmy Fallon The New King Of Late Night TV?

Feb 20, 2014 at 7:00 am |

Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon

Jimmy Fallon enjoyed high ratings for his initial Tonight Show appearance. The question now is “Can he keep it up?” Working the 11:30 time slot on network TV is challenging and has brought many a talent back to cruel reality.

For example, the legendary Jack Paar, after years of show biz disappointment, struck gold as “a night-light to the bathroom.” He and equally iconic, Johnny Carson, faced challenges every night as viewers expected them to be original and entertaining. Jay Leno echoed the challenge, as he spoke of his 22 year run as Tonight Show host.

Leno told Ellen DeGeneres that the hardest part was “you have to go home and write (new) jokes every single night,” for his opening monologue, the most difficult part of the job. Interviewing guests is easy compared to writing and delivering original jokes to the audience. The sleepy TV audience may be tired, but they still expect to be entertained by outstanding current events-themed jokes.

The Daily Beast asks the pertinent question, “Can Jimmy Fallon be himself on ‘The Tonight Show?’ One of the most enduring assets that Steve Allen, Jack Paar and Johnny Carson brought to the show, consistent persona, whether real or perceived, may be Jimmy’s greatest challenge. If he learns to be ‘himself’ the journey to late night success will be easier.

Why Jimmy Fallon May Succeed

  • For Jimmy to maintain good ratings, he may need to rekindle his Saturday Night Live persona, as co-anchor with Tina Fey, of SNL‘s “Weekend Update.” Fallon and Fey were funny and original every week, attracting a loyal, devoted audience.
  • His SNL and Late Night experience should help him attract younger, hipper audiences.
  • The show may capture some of the magic Paar once enjoyed in New York–in the same studio at 30 Rock.
  • Jimmy Fallon has honed his “talk show personality” from his experience with and the success of Late Night, although allowing some guests steamroll him.
  • SNL executive producer Lorne Michaels now presides over The Tonight Show. Michaels is comfortable with Fallon, knowing his strengths and weaknesses.

Moving The Tonight Show back to Manhattan, in the same studio where it once dominated, may involve some risk, but NBC believes Jimmy can make it work. The original move to Los Angeles in 1972 involved the perceived lack of celebrity guests in New York. The network believes this is no longer a problem, with Letterman (CBS) and Late Night (NBC) also based in New York.

Questions remain. Will there be sufficient celebrity guests in the Big Apple for three late night shows? Will Jimmy Fallon’s personality connect with his TV audience long-term? Does Fallon have a strong enough persona to control his guests? Stay tuned.

Although on at midnight instead of 11:35 because of the Olympics, Jimmy Fallon got good ratings in his first Tonight Show appearance, with 11 million viewers.