The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon
|The Tonight Show Starring
|Also known as||The Tonight Show (franchise brand)|
|Created by||Sylvester L. Weaver|
|Written by||A. D. Miles (head writer)|
|Presented by||Jimmy Fallon|
|Narrated by||Steve Higgins|
|Opening theme||"Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey"|
|No. of seasons||1|
|No. of episodes||114 (as of August 22, 2014[update]) (List of episodes)|
|Executive producer(s)||Lorne Michaels|
New York, New York
|Running time||60 minutes|
|Picture format||1080i (16:9 HDTV)|
|Original run||February 17, 2014– present|
|Preceded by||The Tonight Show with Jay Leno|
|Related shows||Late Night with Jimmy Fallon|
The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon is an Emmy Award-nominated American late-night talk show hosted by Jimmy Fallon on NBC. The show premiered on February 17, 2014 and is produced by Broadway Video and Universal Television. It is the seventh incarnation of NBC's long-running Tonight Show franchise, with Fallon serving as the sixth host. The show also stars sidekick and announcer Steve Higgins and house band The Roots. The Tonight Show is produced by former Daily Show executive producer Josh Lieb and executive produced by Lorne Michaels. The show records from Studio 6B in Rockefeller Center, New York City.
The program airs weeknights at 11:34 p.m. ET/PT. The show opens with Fallon's topical monologue, then transitions into comedic sketches/games, concluding with a guest interview and musical performance. The show's debut episode attracted positive reviews from professional television critics, and received 11.3 million viewers in the United States.
The Tonight Show premiered on NBC in 1954 as Tonight, hosted by Steve Allen. Jack Paar hosted the show from 1957 to 1962, but the show's longest-running and most famous host was Johnny Carson, who hosted the show for three decades and pioneered the late-night format. Following Carson's 1992 retirement, "vast quantities of brainpower, money, and column inches were devoted to the issue of who was truly best suited to carry the franchise forward." NBC chose interim guest host Jay Leno, who took over the show that year. A pair of conflicts ensued over Leno's 22-year tenure, both revolving around hosts of Late Night, a program directly following Tonight since its premiere in 1982. David Letterman was considered Carson's top choice and left the network acrimoniously in 1993, and NBC attempted to transition second Late Night host Conan O'Brien to succeed Leno in 2009, but the plan failed when a nightly prime-time show starring Leno posted less than stellar ratings, leading to a domino effect on the late local news. O'Brien's Tonight also suffered falling ratings. O'Brien too left the network the following year, and Leno was reinstated as host.
Jimmy Fallon, a former cast member on Saturday Night Live, was appointed the third host of Late Night by executive producer Lorne Michaels in 2009. The incorporation of the Internet unlike other talk shows was decided long before the show began. Between Fallon's own musical sensibilities and the recruitment of his house band, hip-hop collective The Roots, his incarnation of Late Night "evolved into the most deeply musical of TV’s musical-comedy variety programs", with sketches in which he parodies Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen going viral online. Coincidentally, it was during the Tonight Show debacle that Fallon's show found its footing. The show, according to former SNL castmate Tina Fey, established itself as "an uncommonly warm, welcoming show." In 2010, New York complimented Fallon's "good humor" and noted his improvement: "In the relative safety of his 12:35 a.m. time slot, Fallon has been cultivating a distinct, and refreshing, strain of humor: the comedy of unabashed celebration." "In our heads, we've been doing The Tonight Show [...] We're just on at a later hour," Fallon said.
Fallon grew up with no designs on the Tonight job (unlike O'Brien or Leno) and was just 17 years old when Carson retired. Discussions for Fallon to take over The Tonight Show began in early 2013, with the transition intended to happen by late 2014 at the latest. Many industry observers noted that the change appeared to come as a result of another late-night competitor, Jimmy Kimmel of Jimmy Kimmel Live!, who moved to the 11:35 slot months prior; NBC feared that by waiting too long to promote Fallon, Kimmel could create a stranglehold on young demographics, which is key to the financial success of the franchise. Fallon had reportedly impressed top executives at Comcast (which had recently completed a full takeover of NBCUniversal), and his succession was widely expected throughout the company. The transition reportedly lacked the tension of previous Tonight transitions, and the program's relocation east "signals NBC’s strong commitment to not messing with the program any further."
On April 3, 2013, NBC announced that Leno would retire in 2014, with Fallon taking over The Tonight Show beginning on February 24, 2014. At Leno's suggestion, the date was moved forward from the end of his contract in September 2014, to February so as to use NBC's coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympics as a springboard for Fallon's tenure. The date was later moved up a week to February 17, midway through the Olympics.
As Leno's contract ran until September 2014, much of his staff will be paid until that month.
The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon originates from NBC Studio 6-B in the GE Building at 30 Rockefeller Center in New York City, the original home of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, where it is taped every weekday at 5pm. The studio housed both Carson and his predecessor, Jack Paar, before the franchise's move to Burbank in 1972. "It is where The Tonight Show started -- actually in the studio where we are going to be, that's where Johnny Carson was, there's Broadway, there's Times Square, there's something glamorous about it. That is The Tonight Show," Fallon remarked. NBC spent approximately $5 million renovating Studio 6-B, where Fallon had been taping Late Night, for The Tonight Show's return to New York City. The upgraded 6-B contains improved acoustics and a seating capacity of around 240, up from 189, but smaller than the seating capacity of The Late Late Show. The investment also included a new control room and a new lobby to welcome guests.
The move back to New York created jobs in related tourism businesses. “Bringing the 'Tonight' show back to our city means we’re bringing more than a hundred jobs to hard-working New Yorkers — and giving travelers another great reason to visit," said mayor Bill de Blasio. The larger audience also meant NBC could take advantage of a newly enacted New York state tax credit for talk shows that are "filmed before a studio audience of at least 200, as long as they carry a production budget of at least $30 million and have been shot outside New York for at least five seasons." Initial plans, which would have cost $25 million, intended to annex the floor above the studio, knocking through the ceiling, and installing balcony seating, but Fallon and Michaels nixed the idea. The renovation would have created a "megastudio" for Fallon, as well as a "showy theater" for NBCUniversal to screen films. The studio was part of a general reconstruction of the building being undertaken by Comcast. Fallon's Late Night successor, Seth Meyers, is housed directly above his studio in Studio 8-G; the combination created logistical challenges for executives, who were concerned about "sound bleed" (as the GE Building was built with steel girders, sound is too easily conducted floor to floor). As a result, Meyers show will tape later in the evening, at 6:30pm.
The show's set was designed by theatrical set designer Eugene Lee, known for his credits on Saturday Night Live, whom Fallon thanked on-air on his first episode. The set "emphasizes stained wood and a mid-century modern style," including "a slate blue couch, a handsome honey-colored wood desk and matching walls." Behind the desk near the city backdrop is a wood-carved miniature replica of New York City skyscrapers. "I think it's Eugene Lee's masterpiece," said producer Michaels. Fallon's monologue spot is noted by a painted four-leaf clover on the floor. "Fallon’s new set is purposefully old-fashioned compared to the college-cafe-in-the-meatpacking-district where he lived on Late Night," said Entertainment Weekly. USA Today called the set more "intimate and theatrical" than the set employed on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and The New York Times called it more elegant, "but also quite formal and a little impersonal." The show's logo, its title set against a full moon, is a callback to The Honeymooners, while the title is a throwback to Carson's tenure: Leno and O'Brien both favored a "with," rather than "starring," in their respective titles.
The show's opening sequence, directed by filmmaker Spike Lee, and as Steve Higgins proclaiming "From Studio 6B in Rockefeller Center, in the heart of New York City, it's The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon!" and announces that night's guests and "the legendary Roots crew", features Fallon visiting various New York City landmarks, including Grand Central Terminal and Katz's Delicatessen. The show's theme song is "energetic with jazzy overtones" with "Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey", designed to match the shots of the city. Just before Higgins introduces Fallon, the camera cuts to a shot of The Roots, who then shout the numbers symbolizing the episode number of The Tonight Show. As the camera pans over to the main stage, some members of the Roots perform actions to get the camera's attention (F. Knuckles salutes, and Damon Bryson smiles while flashing a peace sign). Higgins then introduces Fallon, who begins his brief monologue. Fallon often gives the cue cards for a joke to audience members if the joke falls particularly flat.
The show has carried over some of Late Night's best-known bits, such as "Egg Russian Roulette", a game in which Fallon challenges guests to pick random eggs and then smash them against their forehead to see whether the eggs are raw or hard-boiled. Each Friday, Fallon will carry over a popular sketch from his Late Night days: the absurdist "Thank You Notes" segment, in which "he dutifully composes notes of gratitude to abstract concepts and inanimate objects."
The show is essentially an extension of Fallon's tenure at Late Night, with Fallon explaining that he considers it a "best of" his time period there. Prior to composing an entirely new theme song, bandleader Questlove noted to Vanity Fair that they were considering a variation on Late Night's theme, which itself is a sped-up adaptation of The Roots' 2006 song "Here I Come". For their transition to The Tonight Show, The Roots added two horn players from Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings ("You can't be The Tonight Show without a horn section," said Questlove). As he did on Late Night, Jonathan Cohen supervises the show's musical guest bookings.
The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon premiered on February 17, 2014, following NBC's coverage of the Winter Olympics (the show started at midnight, past its usual 11:35 start time, as a result). Fallon strolled out to applause, making light jokes referencing the storied franchise's host debacle of four years prior. He introduced his supporting stars and gave a brief history of his life and career, thanking his parents (who were in the audience) and explaining how his nightly monologue would work. Following this, he once again took his place behind the curtain, restarting the show with more topical jokes on the Olympics and his first bit, Tonight Show Superlatives (an extension of a similarly titled bit from his Late Night tenure).
After taking his place behind the desk for the first time, Fallon took a moment to chide a friend who once bet him $100 he would never host The Tonight Show. After this, Robert DeNiro emerged from behind the curtain, laid $100 down on Fallon's desk, and promptly exited. (DeNiro was Fallon's first guest on Late Night in 2009.) DeNiro wasn't the only person to settle the bet: One by one, a line of celebrities followed him to Fallon's desk to give Jimmy their $100, including Tina Fey, Joe Namath, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (who can be heard thanking Fallon for bringing Tonight back to the Big Apple), Mariah Carey, Tracy Morgan, Joan Rivers (a former guest host on Johnny Carson's Tonight making her first appearance on Tonight since falling out with Carson in the mid-1980s), Kim Kardashian, Seth Rogen, Lindsay Lohan, Sarah Jessica Parker, Mike Tyson, Lady Gaga, and late-night rival Stephen Colbert. Colbert, the last to pay up, offered his $100 by dumping a bucket of pennies on Fallon, greeting him to the earlier time slot ("Welcome to 11:30, bitch!"), and taking a selfie with Fallon that he later posted to his Twitter feed.
Following the first commercial break, guest Will Smith and Fallon launched into a pre-taped sketch titled "The Evolution of Hip-Hop Dancing," rotating through various synchronized moves such as the Robot, the Humpty Dance, the Dougie and more; when Fallon begins to twerk, Smith walks offstage in disgust. The next segment took place at the Top of the Rock, the roof of the 30 Rockefeller Plaza, with U2 performing their new single "Invisible" to the Manhattan skyline as the sun set. The rooftop staging was devised by executive producer Lorne Michaels the previous Wednesday, with its odd placement in the middle of the show to take advantage of the sunset. Next, Fallon welcomed Smith for the interview, with topics ranging from his parody of Willow Smith's "Whip My Hair" as Neil Young, and Smith's recent skydiving endeavor. U2 then returned and took their places on the couch for a short interview and an acoustic rendition of their single "Ordinary Love," accompanied by The Roots. Fallon ecstatically closed the show and ran through the audience, high-fiving fans and seeking out his parents in the audience. The February 21 episode aired at 11:30 p.m. ET/PT, slightly earlier than the program's usual 11:34 p.m. start time.
The debut episode of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon had favorable reviews from critics. The New York Times's Alessandra Stanley referred to the show's premiere as "more sweet than sassy," calling Fallon "the grateful heir, the eager freshman, the class clown with top grades and a good heart, someone older viewers can embrace without fear of being mocked or overlooked." Steve Johnson of the Chicago Tribune wrote that "If he didn't exactly come roaring out of the gate, Fallon did demonstrate the mixture of old-world courteousness, junior-high-school goofiness and seemingly unending enthusiasm that has charmed audiences, network bosses and fellow stars." Darren Franich of Entertainment Weekly wrote that "No one is more excited than Jimmy," noting that "It will be interesting to see over the months (and hopefully years) to follow how he evolves behind the desk." Robert Bianco of USA Today praised Fallon's "easy-to-like TV persona [and] gentle style," calling the host well-suited to the format.
Tim Goodman of The Hollywood Reporter was positive in his assessment of the evening, but noted the older fanbase used to Leno may not latch on as quickly. James Poniewozik of Time found Fallon's introduction, including his background and "incredibly brilliant [...] So each introduction Fallon made was a chance to frame the story, from the beginning, in a way that could make these longtime Tonight viewers—many of them older—comfortable with him, even while he hopefully brought in new ones."
Several critics, however, felt Fallon overcompensated in terms of gratitude and humility. "While gratitude and humility are admirable traits, there were times in Monday's opening moments when Fallon risked taking them to uncomfortable extremes," said Bianco. Slate Magazine's Willa Paskin agreed with the sentiment that the show's debut strayed too close to humility, noting that "Fallon’s appeal is how earnest and energetic he is: the king of comedic kindness. [...] But his opening bit revealed just how much Fallon and his staff understand the power—and not just the authenticity—of Jimmy’s ultimate-nice-guy persona: They sold the hell out of it." "Indeed, Fallon comes across as eager to please almost to a fault, and he treated his Tonight Show launch very much like a guy auditioning to be accepted into homes," said Brian Lowry of Variety, who considered the premiere episode a demonstration in Fallon's strengths and weaknesses. Mary McNamara of the Los Angeles Times called it, following the hype, "conspicuously, and seemingly consciously, low-energy."
The debut episode of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon averaged a 3.8 rating in adults 18-49 and 11.31 million viewers overall in Nielsen's fast-national estimates. This made it the second-largest audience for The Tonight Show since May 2009, behind Leno's final farewell two weeks earlier and the transition to Conan O'Brien nearly five years prior. The program's first full week averaged 8.490 million viewers, making it the franchise’s most-watched week in 20 years.
In Australia, the series premiered on The Comedy Channel on February 18, 2014 - airing the same day as its U.S. broadcast. The Tonight Show also airs on free-to-air network ABC2 (as opposed to The Comedy Channel which is a subscription television network) on a 2 day delay, premiering on March 24, 2014.
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- Official website
- The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at the Internet Movie Database
- The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon at TV.com