Tuesday, January 17, 2012

THE PUPPY-BASKET OF LATE-NIGHT TALK-SHOW HOSTS:  The AV Club's Steve Hyden pens an appreciation of Jimmy Fallon:
Jimmy Fallon isn’t the funniest man in late-night; that’s still a toss-up between Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. But Fallon doesn’t try to compete for that distinction. His greatest, most unique gift as a late-night personality is that he doesn’t have to be funny to be entertaining. There are episodes of Late Night where I’m pretty sure I never laughed out loud once. I don’t know if I can recall a single Fallon one-liner off the top of my head. Nobody is going to accuse Fallon of being a comic genius. This is a good thing. Not being saddled with that baggage seems to make Fallon a lot more relaxed than his peers. Compared with the sweat-drenched desperation that’s so obviously apparent in Jay Leno or even the all-time favorite of comedy nerdom, O’Brien—the compulsive need to always be funny that’s alienating when the comedy isn’t working—Fallon is appealing in the manner of the popular kid in school. Yes, his good looks and confidence might make you hate him at first, but after a while, it’s just nice to be around someone who’s comfortable in his own skin.


  1. I think it's unquestionably true that Gallon has turned into a far better host than pretty much anyone would have expected, largely off the strength of his viral sketches and his willingness to be weird, as well as a willingness to invite guests that other shows would not.  His monologue and interviews, though, are still not so great, and while he's a wonderful fit for that 12:30 timeslot, he has the Conan problem writ large--those viewers who love them some Leno (and there are a lot of them) aren't going to find him a palatable option--at least with Conan, you saw the growth and tradition after a few years--if anything, Fallon has gotten stranger. 

    (Indeed, both NBC and CBS have very real succession problems for the 11:30 slot--Ferguson apparently has a contractual guarantee of 11:30 if he wants it should Dave leave unexpectedly, but I don't see that working, especially with CBS's current primetime demo skew.  Jimmy apparently has no such guarantee, but where else is NBC going to go?  Colbert?  Stewart?)

  2. Mmm.  My guess is that Jimmy may be more adaptable to the 11:30 slot than some of the other folks on that list.  Besides, Leno shows no indication of wanting to retire any time soon---by the time he's ready to leave (and it's hard to see them shoving him out before he's ready to leave, after the last mess), the audience for 11:30 may have shifted a great deal, or perhaps 11:30 will no longer be desirable and 12:30 will be where it's at.

  3. Not that Fallon would necessarily turn down The Tonight Show, but I remember his quote during the Leno/O'Brien cluster being along the lines that he didn't care what time slot he was in because his audience would find him. Didn't quite sound like he had the almost pathological obsession with it that Letterman or O'Brien did.  If given the option between "Move to 11:30, make your show less weird (and less you and what you love)" or "Stay at 12:30 for as long as you want doing this," he might favor the latter.

    I'm a huge fan of both, but I don't think either Stewart or Colbert would work at 11:30.

  4. I think given audience patterns and demographics that we shouldn't pretend that it matters who is on a network v. cable, and who hosts the hour-long talk shows, anymore.  It's fun to follow, but these shows aren't nearly as important financially as the morning shows, and culturally as Stewart/Colbert.

  5. Tonight (and more importantly SNL) are still major major cashcows for NBC, because they're relatively inexpensive to produce but consistently win their timeslot, which is basically the only non-Today-Show daypart NBC is even remotely competitive in.  Admittedly, there's some affilate pressure to give up some of that time, since sitcom reruns do very well at 11:30 on other channels and let more money flow to the affiliate, but it's staying around. 

    That said, you're completely right that especially after the last fight, who hosts "The Tonight Show" matters less, though that's largely because the glory days of that brand (e.g., Carson) are so far behind it.  Conan was particularly attached to the slot because he remembered watching Carson growing up.