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First night a hit for 'Tonight' host Jimmy Fallon



BY FRAZIER MOORE
AP TELEVISION WRITER

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.

Join the discussion

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Dan February 18 2014 at 10:35 AM

AOL ~ PLEASE delete these "make big bucks on the internet" spam posts. Thanks! ☺

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1 reply
Sunny Dan February 18 2014 at 10:39 AM

I agree, Dan. They are so frequent and so annoying!

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jcghopes February 18 2014 at 11:04 AM

Great show! U2's performance on the deck was superb and the close of the show was great as well. With Fallon and Seth Meyers, late night won't be for sleeping any more.

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epdec07 February 18 2014 at 1:01 PM

Not funny at all. Jimmy Fallon tryed to hard, he should have just been himself.

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Janet February 18 2014 at 11:04 AM

No Jimmy Fallon isn't Jay Leno, or Johnny Carson or Jack Parr or Conan O'Brien. He is Jimmy Fallon. He is taking over a show called the Tonight Show. He will bring his own mark to it. Last night was his first night. He seemed very overcome and emotional throughout some of it. He brought a human element to it. He has a long history to follow and it will take him a bit of time to settle in. I'm in my 60's and I've seen them all, but I think Jimmy will take this show to this century and hopefully not try to retread the past. Jay made his own mark, but it gets stale after a while. Time for a fresh start, and if you give Jimmy a chance I think you will be amazed.

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2 replies
mskatbrat Janet February 18 2014 at 11:23 AM

Bravo! I agree! I thought it was refreshingly funny. I watch Carson, Leno and now Fallon. The Conan days were a joke and I refused to watch that idiot. Worst thing they ever did was put him in that job, as they saw quickly.

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HELLO BUTTERFLY Janet February 18 2014 at 4:31 PM

Very well stated. Although I will miss Jay Leno very much and did not find Fallon's show very entertaining, you have at least stated your opinion without being negative or nasty. Glad we cal all agree to disagree without becoming disagreeable.

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Harlan February 18 2014 at 2:31 PM

I KNOW I'm showing my age, but I DO REMEMBER the last year that Johnny Carson was the Tonight Show host...

I know that he's been immortalized, and rightly so, but Johnny Carson wasn’t really treated that well before he resigned.

His silly humor, his characters such as ‘Carmac’, Ed’s fake sounding laughter, Johnny still bringing on guests like ‘old ladies’ he had met who were funny and ‘boy scouts’ and ‘animal conservationist’ who brought in animals who peed on him, etc had gotten old to the newer generations who were then watching the Tonight Show – The executives brought in the then young Jay Leno more and more to host the show because the younger viewers identified with Jay Leno’s newer type of jokes and guests…

Back then, many people thought that Johnny Carson was taking a LOT of time off as if he wasn’t as interested in his own show, but it was the producers who gave Jay more and more airtime because he was bringing up the ratings

Johnny was close friends with David Letterman and he sent him jokes that Letterman used right up to just before Johnny died. He told Letterman that he always felt Letterman should have been the person to take over the Tonight Show. NOT Leno.

Johnny was a CLASS ACT, and when he realized that he was being ‘shut down’ more and more because of his own age, and the increasing age and poor health, and the younger viewer’s disinterest of his favorite guests, he resigned on his own

If you remember his last show ever, he cried… He made a few comments that sounded as if he knew that he had outlived the audiences he had in the past, and he cried when he told us he was happy to have been there when he was relevant and he loved the audiences.. Johnny said that he would retire from then on from the public, and he really did so… He had CLASS and he didn’t want to seek any more limelight at all from his long career…

He left it apparent that he knew his age wasn’t “With the Times” anymore, so when he resigned from hosting the Tonight Show, he completely resigned from ALL TV appearances and he became completely private. Mr. Carson was NEVER really heard from again – He wouldn’t even do interviews like most do just to keep in the public eye... He even kept it private that he had severe emphysema from heavy smoking and wouldn’t live much longer… I hadn’t heard anything from him in years when I heard he died from heart failure and respiratory distress .

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1 reply
Okie Harlan February 18 2014 at 4:20 PM

He was a One and Only no one could ever replace him, now their trying to put a 39 year old kid that hasn't grown up with no class to fill those shoes NO WAY. I agree that times have changed but they have changed for the worse not the better, people talk about the good old day's and that's exactly why they call them the good old days because they were, these are not the good days, good entertainment has gone the way of the dinosaur, so much BS on the tv anymore hardly anything really worth watching. The BS that kids watch these days and the video games ruin them and doesn't teach them anything but violence and disrespect. Looks like it's not going to change everything's going to the dogs. We haven't seen anything yet.

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eddiehnry February 18 2014 at 2:12 PM

Talking about late show hosts "Now" ???....Fallon, I said it before..won't watch it, but after I brief this article maybe, just maybe I will watch it (only 1) after the Olympic games is over "MAYBE", Letterman, maybe....."NON-FUNNY DORK CONAN", NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO WAY !!!...
If I'm mood for Laughs & watching something interesting, I rather watch the "ID" Discovery channel

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Gaildancr February 18 2014 at 11:05 AM

Love Jimmy thought he did a great job knew he would no matter what time slot he is in.

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Trish February 18 2014 at 11:06 AM

You make us New Yorkers proud for sure. GREAT JOB

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tedsmith791 February 18 2014 at 12:19 PM

BEST TONIGHT SHOW HOST = STEVE ALLEN. EVERYONE ELSE = NERDS.

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elinor February 18 2014 at 9:21 AM

careful about how you handle mr. you know who. dont step on toes and you will be around for a long time.

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