Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Didja catch Fallon last night?

So, Conan's gone, and Jimmy Fallon is the new host of "Late Night," also following in the footsteps of the great David Letterman.  Here are my thoughts:

The show opened with a funny little sketch in the dressing room as Jimmy is psyching himself up in the mirror and is told he's about to go on.  The camera then adjusts to reveal Conan O'Brien in plain clothes packing up boxes for his move to L.A.  The two have a very cold banter before Jimmy asks Conan, "So, that's how it's gonna be, huh?"

"Yeah," Conan says with a complacent tone.  "That's exactly how it's gonna be!"

Cut to the opening titles for "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" - Jimmy's running through the streets of New York as the camera flashes around wildly, cutting angles like mad, all to the driving beat of house band, The Roots, who have adjusted their raucous "Here I Come" to fit the theme of "Late Night".

After that, Jimmy Fallon comes out for a pretty much atrociously painful monologue.  There were some good jokes in there, but Jimmy is WAY too uptight and nervous to look like he's having any fun out there.  And when we're squirming right along with him, it's just no fun for us, either.  But at the end of the monologue, Jimmy busts out with a bit called "Slow Jamming The News", where he discusses the passage of the US Economy Stimulus Bill through Congress all to the swanky, sexy rhythms of The Roots and the sultry, bluesy crooning of emcee Tariq "Black Thought" Trotter.  Now, that was funny.

After a commercial break, Jimmy played a really stupid and pointless game with three members of the audience called "Lick It For Ten", in which each audience member was given ten dollars to lick a lawn mower, a copy machine or a fish bowl.  That's it.  They each licked an object and Jimmy gave them each a ten-spot out of his wallet.  Pretty lame.

And after another break, Jimmy welcomed his first guest, acclaimed film actor Robert DeNiro.  A pretty impressive first guest, you'd think.  But the way Bobby just sat there, looking bored or maybe even embarrassed, made for some pretty tense - and not so funny - television.  He wasn't there to promote any new film or anything, so Jimmy was left to just do his impression of the aging actor while he cracked himself up... and few else.  But DeNiro did show some life when they ran the clip of a fictitious movie he and Jimmy had "done together" called "Space Train".  That part was kinda funny.

Then Justin Timberlake came out, gave Jimmy the welcoming gift of a signed photo of Barry Gibb, and proceeded to save the show.  This was probably the best part  since Jimmy and Justin play so well off each other.  They sang an impromptu, appropriately-altered "Barry Gibb Talk Show" theme song together (The Roots jumped in perfectly for this), and Justin went on to do impersonations of John Mayer and Michael McDonald singing about Bud Light Lime; all very funny.

But that's the thing; Jimmy mentioned that their green room was "sponsored" by Bud Light Lime. ("How metro of you," commented Timberlake.)  But why?  Is this really going to be one of those fully-product-placement-laced live shows that gets so annoying with the constant references to some commercial product (like the lawn mower and copy machine, the brands and prices of which were also mentioned) that it just makes me wanna turn the TV off and go to bed?  I hope they don't have to keep this up for long.

Then Van Morrison sang some boring old song and everything ended.  Overall, a pretty rocky start to want may end up being a good show.  I'm one of the few people left who still likes Jimmy Fallon, but I certainly have my doubts about him filling such big shoes as his predecessors and am instantly reminded of one miserable case of "The Chevy Chase Show".  

One of the best things the show has going for it, however, is the amazingly tight and ridiculously hip (by Late Night standards) house band, The Roots.  They are gonna bring the house down every single night and make Carson Daly's house band look like a bunch of pre-teens on recorders and piano-horns.

Let's hope it's just one or two shaky seasons here, like Conan had back in the mid-90s when he started out, and I hope to see him develop his skills and show the world that he's really not just some annoying, worn-out-before-his-time, one-trick-SNL-pony.  Tina Fey is on tonight - I'll definitely be watching that one.

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