If you want a sense of what Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show will be, look at his guest
list. Will Smith and U2, the guests for last night’s opening show, didn’t seem like
the most entertaining choices. But on Thursday, the first night the show moves
to its real time-slot instead of following the Olympics at midnight, Fallon’s
guest will be Michelle Obama. Friday brings everyone’s best guest, Justin Timberlake.
The first episodes feel like a soft launch.
Fallon’s opening was more sentimental than his cheerful
ending to Late Night. He introduced
himself to people who might be watching for the first time (as if there were
people who didn’t’ know about this gig). He mentioned his wife and daughter,
introduced his parents, thanked pervious Tonight
hosts (mentioning Leno twice in the list; how could he not?). He looked almost
as ashen as his dull gray suit. After telling the audience what the show would
be, he jokingly started over – and seem a little more at ease.
The best opening night sketch started with Fallon looking
into the camera and convincingly telling a friend who bet against him hosting The Tonight Show that he owed Fallon a
hundred bucks. A parade of stars came on to deliver, from Robert De Niro to Stephen Colbert, who paid up in pennies and shouted “Welcome to
Will Smith and Fallon’s History of Hip Hop Dancing didn’t
come close to his History of Rap with Timberlake or History of Mom Dancing with
Michelle Obama. But it was a sign that he’ll keep on doing the show he does
best. Monologues and interviews were never his strength; the best parts of Late Night could easily have fit on SNL.
Maybe in a few days he’ll get over sounding gaga about the fact that he has the
Tonight Show, and everything will
feel less beta.