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Jimmy Fallon stays up Late

In late night, nbc, series debut, talk show, television, tv on 03/03/2009 at 10:52 am

One night is not enough to judge a new talk show, so let’s meet back here on the weekend to see how we really feel after the first full week of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. But after just having watched the debut episode at 12:35 a.m. last night (March 2), I know this much:
1. Great opening scene of JF on the streets of NYC, all streaky and haloed, which is exactly how a Lasik surgery patient sees the world. JF, who recently underwent the operation to save himself from having to wear specs to read the prompter/cards. He was kind enough to post the video on his website. Only the sturdy should attempt viewing.
2. Good opening-night bit, teasing about the real test for JF coming in Week 2, in which former host Conan O’Brien, crankily dragging his feet on cleaning out what is now JF’s dressing room, asks who is on the guest list this coming week, leading JF to gush about Robert De Niro and Justin Timberlake et al.
CO: “And next week?”
JF: “Ummm … So it’s going to be like that?”
CO: “Yeah.”
3. The jury is out, at least on my couch, about the opening monologue. Obama and economy  jokes were so last week, but were revived slightly by Slow Jamming the News with Roots man Tariq Trotter doing backup while JF lounge-lizards the likes of Nancy Pelosi hammering Republican governors for opposing U.S. President Barack Obama’s stimulus package. It had a bit of a Will Ferrell flavour to it. But will it get old?
4. I laughed a couple of times (Justin Timberlake doing John Mayer, then doing Michael McDonald doing a Bud Light ad) and tapped a toe more than once (let’s here it for The Roots and debut musical guest Van Morrison).
5. Kudos to JF for facing full-on the fear of the unresponsive guest: While Robert De Niro is a nimbly comic actor, as witnessed by his blink and you’d miss it kibbitzing with Timberlake, De Niro is a notoriously bad interview. JF, seizing this opportunity, launched into a series of questions that required only one-word answers. It failed and succeeded, breaking even but doing what JF appears to be aiming for: the host who doesn’t hide his nervousness, doesn’t hide behind a snide persona (hello David Letterman) and doesn’t stoop to trashy supposed humour (oh Jay Leno). Now of course, playing a regular guy who, aw shucks, is lucky enough to have a show and the incredibly nimble Roots as his regular band is, of course, a persona. But it’s one with appeal.
What do you think? Are you like John Doyle of the Globe and Mail who thinks the talk-show scene is an overheated pile of pitiful ratings? Or do you, like me, dabble? I sample a bit of Letterman, a lot of the Daily Show, some of Ferguson if I can stay awake and a touch of Leno ONLY if the guest is good.
In case you need reminding, here’s a link to who’s where on the talk-show couches this week.

— Denise Duguay

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