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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.

Join the discussion

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Hudsongrl February 18 2014 at 9:11 AM

I'm 58 and am not gonna tune in to see U2 or Will Smith. Jimmy is a nice guy. Bring some guests that appeal to wide audience, or it's over.

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piccianobrothers February 18 2014 at 10:07 AM

I tuned in out of curiosity. I was not impressed. After watching Jay Leno for years I will now be switching to ABC. Jim

Flag Reply +5 rate up
ourfatdog February 18 2014 at 10:07 AM

I wish I knew what to watch now. I tried watching the show but he talked so fast and low I couldn't understand him with my 75 year old ears. I grew up with Parr, Carson, and Leno. Leno was okay but the other two are irreplaceable.

Flag Reply +6 rate up
Ron February 18 2014 at 10:08 AM

Jimmy, just like Jay needs some better writers for their monologues as their jokes fade off into some kind of lost land. I'll stick to watching David Letterman and Craig Ferguson.
I'm a late night person who wors the 3-11 shift so these shows are my prime-time.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
1 reply
mzcar4 Ron February 18 2014 at 10:32 AM

Better writers wont do it. This is just not his forte! LIke he said, "I'm here ......for now." He doesn't know how to deliver a line and better writers wont help that. It's like trying to make him an opera singer. He just doesn't fit the format .

Flag Reply +3 rate up
wrwidg2003 February 18 2014 at 10:11 AM

Never have seen what the big deal about the tonight show is. Its a good show but what is supposed to be so incredible about it to have all this endless attention? Too bad we don't make superstars out of people that actually do something for mankind. Oh well. That would make too much sense.

Flag Reply +6 rate up
jvppierce February 18 2014 at 10:11 AM

Fast and simply he is very talented but way way too immature for this time slot. It's like watching a show with nothing but skits. No different between his show and snl and every other show like it.
NBC really blew this big time and it will blow up in their faces...

Flag Reply +10 rate up
spdy65 February 18 2014 at 2:46 PM


Flag Reply +3 rate up
Barbara February 18 2014 at 2:47 PM

He was better where he was. He looked and acted out of place. Will not be watching him as much any more. Bring Jay Leno back. He can teach Jimmy how it should be done.

Flag Reply +5 rate up
tsk0604 February 18 2014 at 7:49 AM

Not one did it like Johnny, and all the hosts since have been living with that reality.

Flag Reply +4 rate up
1 reply
herdebrian tsk0604 February 18 2014 at 8:07 AM

well johnny has moved on

Flag Reply 0 rate up
Frankie February 18 2014 at 10:12 AM

It sounds like Conan O'brien sent ole Jimmy some material for his opening monologue!

Flag Reply +2 rate up
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