After 22 years of Jay Leno and his massive facial deformity (I think people call it a chin? Let me double check on that), “The Tonight Show” is back to recruiting young talent – and hopefully for real this time.
Ever since the whole “Conan” debacle, “The Tonight Show” has gone from hallowed institutionalism to infamous tension. From Steve Allen to Johnny Carson and through Jay Leno’s first 17 years, there was an unbroken chain of success (if you want to define certain mediocre years as successful).
With the ousting of Leno, the chain-yank of “Conan” and finally the awkward tug-back on “Leno, “NBC executives made one thing clear: if Tina Fey isn’t in control of something that happens on our station, it ain’t gonna be good.
Fallon, after grinding his teeth at Late Night and Saturday Night Live, has finally made his way into the mainstream. We’re not talking about a silent, dedicated skill-honing apprenticeship however; no, Fallon’s first mistakes and growing pains were there for all to see — in the first seasons of “Late Night” and Fallon’s unprofessional hiccups at “SNL.”
But weirdly enough, that amateur, boyish charm is the most appealing thing about Fallon. Let’s face the facts — Leno has been phoning it in for years. Why wouldn’t he? After two decades at a job less and less people appreciate you for, you might begin to phone it in too (plus Leno has a bunch of sweet cars that are frankly much more interesting than those hackneyed zoo animal segments they keep rehashing on late night talk shows).
Fallon, though, is a late night host for the viral age. On his debut episode, there were more tweetable moments than you could count on one hand or fit in 140 characters. Celebrities came out in droves to pay homage – even ‘Iron’ Mike Tyson found it in his heart to take time from his pigeons and slip Fallon a congratulatory gift.
The most exciting part, however, is when Fallon did a history of hip-hop dance moves with Will Smith – calling back on his “Late Night” days and his incredibly popular skits with Justin Timberlake.
However ridiculous he looked, as Fallon twerked and dougied on that stage, in front of that live audience, he sent a message loud and clear: this was right.