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Second Impressions: NBC's "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon," Day Two
March 4, 2009  | By David Bianculli

Night two of NBC's Late Night with Jimmy Fallon was loose enough to improve a bit upon opening night, but consistent enough in where it faltered to permit some more focused criticisms and advice.

So here it is...

Pulling a celebrity, in this case New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, out of the audience was a fun cameo spot. The bit leading up to it, a series of fake Facebook entries, was unfunny and interminable -- but its payoff, Bloomberg, was fun.

Planting celebrities in the audience is an old Saturday Night Live trick, but it's actually an even older trick, going back all the way to Ed Sullivan's Toast of the Town more than 60 years ago. Junk the Facebook, keep the cameos... and keep a bit of long-standing TV tradition alive.

JIMMY-2-Bloomberg.jpgBloomberg was given a joke about how awkward the previous night's Fallon-Robert De Niro interview was, and Fallon later made another disparaging reference at his own expense. Good. The road to recovery begins with admitting one's mistakes.

So was Fallon better interviewing last night's guests, Tina Fey and Jon Bon Jovi? Yes and no.

In both interviews, there were moments that worked, but minutes that didn't. Talking to Tina about the Oscars worked. Talking to her about a party she attended with Fallon didn't.


And the fan karaoke bit, with an audience member singing "Wanted Dead or Alive" as Jon Bon Jovi watched, was a painful sort of American Idol road company -- until he joined her, and saved the bit.

Other observations: The monologue jokes were flatter than Kansas, again. There aren't that many in the monologue, so they should be better -- a lot better. And since this has happened two nights in a row, in warrants mentioning, and an instant correction: When a guest moves over to the couch, don't forget to widen or cut back occasionally for reaction shots. Otherwise, there's no reason for that guest to stay.

From now on, for a while, Fallon and company will get to work out these and other kinks in relative solitude. Opening night was a moth-to-flame media event, and last night offered the Fallon-Fey reunion, but now it's going to level out to business as usual.

And tonight, at 12:35 a.m. ET, the really serious late-night viewers will be focusing on CBS and The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, where the guest is Archbishop Desmond Tutu.



Gregg B said:

I thought the show was terrible except for Justin Timberlake. He was terrific. I agree with you that he could bring back the variety show. He is multi-talented. Made me wish he was hosting. I thought Conan as host was pretty bad at the beginning, but and here is the big but, his scripted comedy bits were hilarious from the beginning. This is what Fallon has to get right because the ease at hosting will come to him. Otherwise he will go the way of the Dodo(Chevy Chase et. al.).

Comment posted on March 4, 2009 10:50 AM

Greg Kibitz said:

It's not fair to beat Jimmy up for the fake facebook entries. Honestly, that was a play (almost) right out of Conan's (or Carson's) playbook and this is still show number two and Jimmy has to stuff. Sadly, for most of these guys (other than Ferguson who rarely even needs any guests or skits), 40 minutes of air time is a tough thing to fill. And, like Conan, Jimmy is going to have to try a whole lot of new (and potentially disastrous) things to find out what works. And just because some of this stuff doesn't work for us old forty and fifty something fogies, it may just be the perfect fare for his primary demographic (teens and twentysomethings).

Personally, I hate many of Ferguson's skits (and am really tiring of the darn puppets) and would rather just listen to him extemporate at the desk for hours but even he has to kill some time here and there and I will not fault him for that. Par for the course I say.

Comment posted on March 4, 2009 2:43 PM
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