A couple of months ago, Craig Ferguson sat in front of the assembled members of the Television Critics Association and asked us very nicely to refrain from reviewing Jimmy Fallon based on Fallon's first episode (which you can watch in its entirety here). Craig later bought us all pizza.
Far be it from me to dishonor the request of a charming Scotsman who feeds me, but I do have a few brief, not really review-y thoughts on the opening night of "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" -- while acknowledging that this job is a marathon and not a sprint -- coming up just as soon as I lick a sponsored product...
I think I'm going to watch tonight's "Late Night" to see how Fallon does opposite old "Weekend Update" partner Tina Fey, and then I likely won't watch again for at least three months. Because this is a job you need to grow into, and based on the debut, Fallon has a lot of growing to do.
He was so nervous at times that he made me feel uncomfortable watching him. His interview with Robert DeNiro was a fiasco. DeNiro's a bad guest under ordinary circumstances, but by opening with the list of questions with one-word answers, as opposed to saving it for a moment when the interview went south, Fallon essentially told DeNiro to phone it in. (You could almost see DeNiro's lip curl when Fallon brought up the idea.) The Justin Timberlake interview was only better because Timberlake's so charming and funny that he was able to carry Fallon through what felt like his version of "The Chris Farley Show." ("Remember when we played the Bee Gees? That was awesome!") And even there, Fallon was so clumsy that he gave the impression that the MTV show clip Timberlake showed wasn't real, when apparently it was.
The comedy bits were a mixed bag. Slow-jamming the news worked, with a huge assist from The Roots, but the product-licking seemed like the sort of thing a talk show might have done in the '70s or '80s, when I suppose they were trying for something more akin to "Jackass." (What's so gross about licking the outside of a goldfish bowl? Or a lawnmower that obviously hasn't just been out mowing a lawn?) And there was none of the 21st century, plugged-in vibe that Fallon's been promising in all his interviews. This was a very traditional talk show episode, and not a very good one.
Again, I want to give the guy some time to get his footing. Conan was pretty terrible for a long time (though Fallon, of course, has much more performing and on-camera experience than Conan did back in 1993), Kimmel took forever to figure out what he was doing, etc. But as I wrote around the time Fallon's hiring was announced, he's never struck me as someone with a real comic identity. Even if he gets the nerves under control and learns how to carry a conversation, what's the show? Last night didn't give me much of a clue, but per Craig, I'll keep an open mind.
What did everybody else think?