Jimmy Fallon And Late-Night In The Digital Age

Jimmy Fallon takes over at “The Tonight Show.” We’ll look at the new era and new challenges of late night TV.

Jimmy Fallon appears during his "The Tonight Show" debut on Monday, Feb. 17, 2014, in New York. Fallon departed from the network's “Late Night” on Feb. 7, 2014, after five years as host, and is now the host of “The Tonight Show,” replacing Jay Leno after 22 years. (AP)

Jimmy Fallon appears during his “The Tonight Show” debut on Monday, Feb. 17, 2014, in New York. Fallon departed from the network’s “Late Night” on Feb. 7, 2014, after five years as host, and is now the host of “The Tonight Show,” replacing Jay Leno after 22 years. (AP)

Big turnover in late-night TV land this week.  Jimmy Fallon stepping in.  Jay Leno stepping out.  And a whole lot of hullabaloo over the hand-off.  At one level, it’s who cares?  We fill our screens with so many things and people and games and tweets today, at all hours of the day and night.  Does it matter who or what comes on at 11:30 anymore?  On the other hand, any show that gathers a modest quorum of Americans these days is interesting because it’s rare.  And late- night TV comes with a lot of history.  This hour On Point:  late-night TV now, Jimmy Fallon and beyond.

– Tom Ashbrook


Robert Thompson, director of the Bleier Center for Television & Popular Culture at Syracuse University.

Meredith Blake, entertainment writer for the Los Angeles Times. (@MeredithBlake)

From Tom’s Reading List

Los Angeles Times: Jimmy Fallon powers ‘Tonight Show’ debut with stars like Tina Fey, U2 — “History loomed large throughout the broadcast, which opened with a sequence directed by Spike Lee featuring Fallon at famous New York landmarks. The program was taped at the fully refurbished Studio 6B at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, a sophisticated space outfitted with high ceilings, amber-colored wood paneling and a pale blue couch.

New York: Last Night With Jimmy Fallon: Into the Wee Hours With the Heir to TV’s Grandest Franchise — “Ever since he dropped on to our comedy doorstep, a 24-year-old on Saturday Night Live who couldn’t help but crack up in sketches and yet somehow managed to make breaking character the funniest part of the joke, people have talked a lot about Jimmy Fallon’s earnestness—his unmistakable delight in doing what he’s doing. But it might be his sketchiness, if you will, that really sets him apart. Unlike the other hosts he’ll soon be competing against at 11:35 p.m., when he takes over Jay Leno’s job as host of The Tonight Show on February 17—David Letterman on CBS, a fast-ascending Jimmy Kimmel on ABC, and the niche dual-snark whammy of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert on Comedy Central—Fallon has spent every week for six years putting on a chaotic live variety show where his own success hinged on persuading Holly­wood’s most famous stars to go down the rabbit hole with him.”

Slate: I Actually Feel Bad For Jay Leno — “Billy Crystal, who had been the first guest on Leno’s Tonight Show, was also his last. Crystal took a trip down memory lane when he arrived, doing his own monologue cataloguing Leno’s best jokes, which is how Lorena Bobbitt got a mention on national television in 2014. Than he and Jay sat down and reminisced about knowing each other in the ’70s, mentioning many people even less fresh than Lorena Bobbitt. On his last show, Leno had on exactly who he wanted—and he wanted Crystal and, also, Garth Brooks. For long stretches of the show it was impossible to tell what year it was.”

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