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First night a hit for 'Tonight' host Jimmy Fallon


NEW YORK (AP) -- If Jimmy Fallon had already proven he was a natural hosting NBC's "Late Night," he left no doubt Monday that "The Tonight Show" now fits him like a glove.

As promised during the much-promoted run-up to his "Tonight Show" debut, Fallon made no drastic changes to the "Late Night" formula that had served him for five years. He remained funny, gracious, bubbly and, above all, comfortable presiding over a show that was different mostly for its earlier time slot, its classier production values and legendary brand name.

Jimmy Fallon Makes 'Tonight Show' Debut With Historic Celeb Guests

"We can book people from the West Coast?!" he joked at his newfound status.

He did pretty well with his bookings on opening night: Will Smith and the rock group U2.

But all that was ahead.

First, his viewers beheld his new set, boasting burnished-wood paneling and panoramic blue curtains.

They had seen his filmed opening - Jimmy as the New York nightcrawler - shot by director Spike Lee.

They discovered that his band, the Roots, had grown by two from its already husky eight pieces.

Then out he came, to thunderous applause, and planted himself on his mark (a four-leaf clover) to deliver his first monologue.

"I'm Jimmy Fallon," he began, and, with a nod to past late-night turbulence that most recently saw his "Tonight" predecessor, Jay Leno, make an unsought exit, he added, "I'll be your host - for now."

He expressed gratitude for his new gig, introduced his parents in the studio audience, and dispensed love in every direction - and made it sound authentic.

He had a few Olympics jokes, one offering sympathy to NBC sportscaster Bob Costas, who was sidelined from several days of Olympics coverage with a blinding bout of pinkeye.

"You could tell he was having trouble when he spent half-an-hour interviewing a mop he thought was Shaun White," Fallon cracked.

Back at his desk, he voiced what seemed like an aside: "To my buddy who said that I'd never be the host of `The Tonight Show' - and you know who you are - you owe me a hundred bucks, buddy."

With that, Robert De Niro burst through the curtain and plunked a hundred dollars on Fallon's desk.

But that wasn't all. In rapid succession, a parade of other celebs circled through right behind him. They included Joe Namath, Rudolph Giuliani, Lindsay Lohan, Lady Gaga, Mike Tyson, Stephen Colbert and Sarah Jessica Parker.

Joan Rivers was also among them, repaying her "debt" and making a bit of history in the bargain: 49 years earlier to the day, the veteran comedian had made her first appearance on "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson" in that very studio, and had not appeared on "Tonight" since 1987, when she was banned by Carson after jumping to Fox to host her own short-lived show.

A key part of the celebratory spirit for Fallon was the fact that, after more than 40 years in Los Angeles, he and NBC have brought "Tonight" back to New York and Rockefeller Plaza, where it has reclaimed Studio 6B, once the home of Carson and, before him, "Tonight" host Jack Paar.

If viewers needed visual evidence of "Tonight's" restored New York state of mind, Fallon delivered it with flourish.

From the observation deck atop the G.E Building he occupies, he introduced U2, who, 70 stories aloft, performed a new song, "Invisible," against a magnificent New York cityscape at a perfect moment of dusk. The backdrop was so beautiful you might have sworn it was computer generated, but it was real, as was the bitter cold that had the musicians, and a legion of fans gathered round, clad in heavy winter wear.

But after a commercial break, Fallon and his musical guests were cozy, back in the studio, where U2, seated on the powder-blue couch, performed an acoustic version of their Oscar-nominated song, "Ordinary Love."

It was a fine ending to a much-assured hour.

"I just want to do the best I can and take care of this show for a while," Fallon told viewers. "If you guys let me stick around long enough, maybe I'll get the hang of it."

No worries. For five years on "Late Night" he was getting the hang of it.

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gary.brocato February 24 2014 at 7:01 PM

Fallon hit it out of the park, man. He's the new Johnny, Jack, and Leno marinated in SNL and LLate night. Jimmy's one saucy dude. I've never recorded the tonight show before now. Don't want to miss a thing. I'm 63 y.o. and grew up with SNL so I find his humor on target most of the time. Even his banter with the side-kick off the cuff is brilliant.

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dcb523stl February 19 2014 at 11:06 AM

Why is Jimmy Fallon being crammed down our throats? And he still "applauds" for himself. Thank goodness I have DishNetwork to find something else to watch!

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debra5588 February 19 2014 at 9:07 AM

I think Jimmy is mega talented with his impressions, and SNL. I did not like the first two shows, but NBC is stuck now. NO one can replace Jay or Johnny and the new direction NBC is taking is for the KIDS, not anyone over 50. I dont care for Letterman but I would rather watch that than the new Tonight show. Keep Jimmy on the LATE Night Show, he was perfect there.

This is going to be a disaster--ratings will drop off in six months.

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dodgerelvis February 19 2014 at 9:05 AM

Rather have Jay Leno. Jimmy acts too stupid for me. I won't watch it again.

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Di February 19 2014 at 8:32 AM

I thought the show was kinda flat.... It'll get better.. Enjoyed U2.

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APO SR February 19 2014 at 6:57 AM

How many years did it take to find the chosen one? And they got it. Congrats Jimmy. Tony O.

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Sunny February 19 2014 at 6:18 AM

Would rather watch Jimmy over Letterman any day of the week. Also, why is Letterman still hanging around when he is several years older than Jay? He is lucky someone has not pushed him out already like they did Jay.

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patriot1too February 19 2014 at 4:54 AM

Hes too silly and childish. They need to dump him and that show so a slot can be opened for something for grown ups. Not this snarky kids nonsense. catering to the saggy pants sideways cap neck tattoed hoodie wearing crowd is getting far too old and most are tired of it. U2 as a guest?? Who are they anyhow?? Some sunglass wearing band??

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jamdwngirl February 19 2014 at 12:48 AM

I love Jimmy Fallon and the Roots. Great first show.
I would love to get tickets for the show I enjoyed seeing the throng of celebs with $100 dollar bills.

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LewTag February 18 2014 at 10:08 PM

You forgot to mention that Tina Fey was second in the parade of stars welcoming JF with a hundred dollar bill...best part of the show...the rest was nothing new...

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