Now, I'm not the most television savvy person to walk the earth. I mostly watch shows that critics acclaim because I perceive them to be good and believe I can recognize good entertainment when I see it, and some shows that most people agree are mediocre at best, albeit I know that they're mediocre (I believe many are familiar with the "comfort" aspect of media consumption). I enjoy sports mostly, which doesn't make things any more sophisticated; there's nothing more mind droning/stupefying than watching the same cycle of three sports stories told in one day by a variety of different hosts on all the different programs and repitions of ESPN Sportscenter, mostly recently Alex Rodriguez's steroid scandal, the approaching 2009 NFL draft, and Tiger Woods' return to golf. Man, such topical information will have this post dated in no time.
Anyway, something else highly topical to this Monday and this blog entry was watching Jimmy Fallon's first show of Late Night (naturally taking over for Conan O'Brien) with my dad. It was his idea; he says he has liked Jimmy Fallon since he saw his movie Fever Pitch about Boston Red Sox fans and what not. Now, I'm going to state the obvious information that's already in the room: most people were predicting this show to suck, to fail, because Fallon is too awkward, doesn't have the right interviewing perosnal skills, and just isn't a very funny comedian to begin with. The natural response to such criticism is that Conan was awkward and a poor interviewer himself on his stint on Late Night, which wasn't good for three years but eventually gained a loyal fan base and earned him the seat in the Tonight Show.
Well, after watching the first show, I think the concerns of most early critics have been realized. The show was not funny, quite awkward, and at times, downright awful, almost unbearable. His monologue jokes were alright actually, though his delivery and poise made them seem less funny and apt- sorry to say for his writers' sake. This was followed by an audience game show participation segment which was just fucking gross. Its theme: getting people to lick inanimate objects for $10. After commercials was Fallon's first guest, the legendary, but usually poor interviewee, Robert De Niro. This interview was nothing more than strange: it featured a clueless Fallon poking De Niro with some whimsical questions. The first few questions, I must say though, were actually somewhat funny, in which Fallon said he would ask De Niro for only one word answers to begin with to get things rolling. All in all, however, it was hardly an interview at all, or at least one that completely lacked purpose, direction, and meaning. De Niro was followed by the likeable and talented Justin Timberlake, who did well in his segment in spite of Fallon's poor questions and lack of tact. The musical guest was the also legendary Van Morrison, whose performance was good for a man his age, but only that, and nothing much more. I personally did not care for the song, but hey, like everything on this site, that's just me, and just one man's opinion.
So on that note, I'll say that I'm pretty smug. I'm a very harsh critic, but I expect art (and we can debate how much television talk-shows are an art form) to be as true as possible. What do I mean by that? I'm not sure, but, though I know it's more difficult than it may look to make a TV show like Late Night popular and likeable, or at least I realize there is a lot that goes into the equation, when one has a template for people that do their job well (i.e. Johnny Carson) then we have no choice but to compare and give credit and criticism where they are due.
So, Fallon, your first show sucked, may god aid your shows to come.
Perhaps the one bright spot most viewers would recognize was Fallon's house band, the omnipresent, tasteful hip hop combo, The Roots. They are a talented group no doubt, and are clearly meant to be a very modern and trendy incantation of the typical talk show band, one that appeals to younger viewers. I get the feeling they won't be on Fallon's show forever if it lasts, but instead the position will be shifting. In any case, Fallon and his writers made good use of them during a monologue segment entitled something like "Breaking the News- Slow Jam." It was ok. I personally do prefer something more old fashioned like Conan's Max Weinberg 7. This band had a more catchy and accessible theme and style of music than The Roots, whose opening and closing theme to Late Night I found to be somewhat irritating.
But again, that's just me, and I could be wrong. All in all, however, Fallon has a long way to go to catch up with Conan, but he has time, it's just the first show.
And man, I don't know why I made my very first entry on a TV show I didn't like. We'll see if it becomes a trend.