Embarrassing confession: The last few nights I have watched “The Tonight Show.” I mean watched it watched, as opposed to before when I forgot to turn the TV off so I accidentally had Jay Leno yammer on in the background while I was in the living room doing other stuff. (I’ve always wondered what percentage of “Tonight’s” ratings are about the TV being on versus an actual, engaged viewership.)
I’d been watching the Olympics. NBC cannot be accused of under-promoting Jimmy Fallon’s move from “Late Night” to “Tonight,” so the night he premiered I was like, “What the hell? At the very least it’ll be interesting to see what the next generation of eye-roll inducing monologues and sketches will look like.”
Even more embarrassing confession: I thoroughly enjoyed it. Jimmy Fallon was humble, yet upbeat and enthusiastic. The monologue jokes, while obviously geared towards a broad audience, were quiet-smile-inducingly funny. The Roots, as always, were awesome. And the bits from “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” that went viral for good reason? They’re still there.
The weak spot was the interviews. A lot of it’s clearly scripted and most of the rest of it is Jimmy Fallon enthusiastically asking famous people why they’re so awesome. But it’s as if Fallon’s over the top nice-ness inspires his guests to go along with the goofiness. For example, Bono, Very Serious Famous Person, gravely addressed his coffee mug: “I can only do a speech about things I believe in… but I believe in this cup. It’s not a cup, it’s a container. It demands to be filled, by our love or bad thoughts. This cup was held in the hand of Nelson Mandela.” That more than made up for all the questions about how and why U2 is the best thing since sliced bread.
So maybe I’m a “Tonight Show” viewer now. Or at least no longer someone who swears and immediately changes the channel once she realizes it’s on.
I’ve always thought of my viewing habits as wide ranging but with a distinct preference for the weird over the procedural. Give me “Justified” over “Law and Order: SVU.” “Sherlock” over “The Following.” But “Tonight” is kind of the formal living room of late night.
If I’ve now entered a demographic that can appreciate the edgeless and formulaic, then what does that say about me as a viewer? Maybe I should check out “NCIS” after all.
God, I’m old.
What do you think of the new “Tonight Show?”