Jimmy Fallon: SNL's next great failure?

Late tonight (actually very early tomorrow morning), Jimmy Fallon will begin his career as a talk show host by taking over the seat formerly occupied by Conan O'Brien. While many writers are predicting the quick demise of Fallon's show, his unexplainable popularity, not to mention the impressive amount of money being poured into promoting him, should guarantee his show runs for at least a few months.

In the interests of total honesty, I should probably begin by admitting that the only times that I have ever really liked Jimmy Fallon were when he was dressed up as Barry Gibb. I was able to tolerate him in Almost Famous and Fever Pitch, when he strove for dramatic range, yet managed to achieve a stunning mediocrity. Beyond that, he generally comes off as a painfully smug frat boy, and his tendency to laugh at his own jokes makes me want to shoot someone. As Peter Griffith noted while beating an animated Fallon in an episode of The Family Guy, Carol Burnett can laugh on stage; unlike Fallon, she's earned it.

On the other hand, it's only fair to point out that Jimmy Fallon probably doesn't represent a low point for television talk shows. As The Business Insider's "Ten Worst Talk Show Bombs" demonstrates, the well of horrifyingly bad TV hosts is pretty deep. What's more, even some performers who later went on to television glory, like Jon Stewart, had tough experiences on their maiden voyages. In a battleground laden with the bodies of Craig Kilborne, Pat Sajak, and Alan Thicke, even Fallon's worst comedic stylings will probably only come off as half-heartedly awful.For that matter, Fallon isn't even the worst Saturday Night Live alum. Most of the show's 1980-1981 cast has gone on to much-deserved anonymity (does anybody even know what happened to Denny Dillon and Gail Matthius?); for that matter, the majority of the 1981-1984 cast is similarly unmemorable. In fact, with the exception of Joe Piscopo and Eddie Murphy, it's pretty hard to recall a cast member from those three seasons.

Still, unlike the Tim Kazurinskys and Tony Rosatos (or even the Chris Kattans and Horatio Sanses), Fallon is not being shunted off to the infomercial/voice over graveyard. In fact, he has now been given the keys to the kingdom, at least in terms of television. Replacing O'Brien, who was famously unpopular when he premiered, Fallon hopes to aim for a broad spectrum, attracting younger audiences with his ironic, cutesy humor while he tries to pull in an older audience with guests like Robert DeNiro and Donald Trump.

Having caught a preview of Fallon's act with the Bobby Jindal/Kenneth the Page skit that is currently circulating on the internet, it seems like his new show promises the worst of his Weekend Update appearances, minus the leavening influence of Tina Fey. Still, there's no accounting for taste, and there are a lot of fraternities out there...
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