Fallon hit The Tonight Show’s new stage last night for the first time ever, undoubtedly feeling the pressure that comes with his debut performance after leaving the Late Night Show behind for good — and into the capable hands of Seth Meyers.
“This is the first Tonight Show broadcast in New York in over 40 years,” said Fallon in his opening monologue. “I’m Jimmy Fallon and I’ll be your host — for now,” he continued, making the customary riff about Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien. “I really don’t know how I got here. If you’d have told me as a kid that I was going to graduate high school and go on to be on Saturday Night Live and eventually be the host of The Tonight Show, I would have said ‘I graduated high school? That’s so not me.’” O’Brien had posted his congratulations and best wishes the day of the show to both Jimmy Fallon and Seth Meyers, saying that, “They’ll both do great,” meaning that hard feelings have faded, at least where Fallon is concerned.
Now, the reviews are coming in from last night’s show, and the few complaints are all basically to the same tune — Jimmy Fallon was too nice. “What a nice young man,” said the New York Times’ Alessandra Stanley dryly. “Jimmy Fallon introduced himself to viewers on Monday like a freshly licensed doctor taking over a retiring gerontologist’s practice.” Others shared the same criticism, but few held such a strong opinion on it. CNN’s Saeed Ahmed admitted that, “He was pretty subdued through” his introduction, but claimed that what followed made up for it. ”People always bring up Fallon’s niceness when they compare him to other late-night hosts. One the one hand, it’s a survival strategy,” said Darren Franich of Entertainment Weekly, who, on the other hand, said that he “glazed over for both segments of Smith’s interview.”
Finally, there’s USA Today’s Robert Bianco, who said that, “While gratitude and humility are admirable traits, there were times in Monday’s opening moments when Fallon risked taking them to uncomfortable extremes.”
While reviews universally commented on Fallon’s perhaps over-the-top politeness, most also seem to be in agreement that the new set was beautiful, the move to New York a classic choice, and that his “Evolution of Hip-Hop” with Will Smith was awesome — and it was. Here, take a gander.
The show progressed from the opening monologue to Fallon’s interview with Smith, who talked about curling as an Olympic Sport. Then U2 made an appearance as Fallon’s first musical guests, playing on top of 30 Rock with the skyline of New York city behind them — ultimately, New York was nearly as big a star as Fallon himself on the first show. Then, a number of other guest stars made their own short and rapid appearance in a surprise punch line after Fallon made a comment that an anonymous star owed him $100 for betting that he’d never manage to host The Tonight Show. This queued a stream of stars including Robert De Niro, Tina Fey, Joe Namath, Joan Rivers, Seth Rogen, Sarah Jessica Parker, Lady Gaga, and even Stephen Colbert to come out on stage and slap down some cash.