Fallon, Meyers: Same Faces, Different Places


photo via Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons license

For the those of you who are unaware, the Late Night TV landscape experienced a seismic shift a few weeks ago with longtime Tonight Show host Jay Leno stepping down to make way for Jimmy Fallon, who carved out his own corner on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon at the 12:35 time slot prior to the move. Fallon is taking with him his house band, the hip-hop-jazz fusion group The Roots. Fallon’s successor, Seth Meyers, jumped from Saturday Night Live into the new open spot for Late Night (a la Fallon in 2009, replacing Conan O’Brien).

In his first week, Fallon enjoyed a lead-in from the Olympics, which in part contributed to his big-intro week ratings. However, the second week proved that it was no fluke as Fallon continued to put up comparable ratings even without everyone staying up late to watch curling. Fallon has brought new life and energy into an aging Tonight Show, in a time slot that had been dominated by Leno on NBC and David Letterman on CBS. The set redesign includes a larger side stage for the extensive Roots collective (the band is made up of eight members) and a wooden skyline as opposed to the often-used green screen projection that adds a touch of hominess, remniscent of the old Studio 6-B where Fallon used to host Late Night.

Fallon has kept more of the same with content featuring classic bits ( History of Rap pt. 5, Rob Ford and Christ Christie jokes among the staples) and favorite guests (Justin Timberlake and Jerry Seinfeld) in the show’s opening week. His interactions with the crowd and the guests and The Roots continue to go beyond the status quo of Q&A among most late night hosts. Jimmy Fallon has brought his own fresh flair to an iconic role.

And then there’s Seth Meyers. The talented SNL writer and “Weekend Update” anchor seems to have found it difficult to adapt to the new five-nights-a-week environment of his new job. He appears a little stiff in handling pauses or jokes that don’t go too well, and his delivery in his monologue is identical to that of his “reporting” on “Weekend Update.” The addition of fellow SNL alum Fred Armisen as band leader and sidekick further indicates that Meyers isn’t quite ready to let go of his roots. That being said, much of this could be chalked up to nerves and the prospect of filling the large shoes left in studio 6-B by Fallon.

It’s understandable that Meyers would want to stick with what works, but hosting a five minute segment and an hour long show is not the same thing. Fallon may be retreading his steps on the Tonight Show, but it’s a welcome deviation for the 11:35 audience who is used seeing Leno do the same bits for decades. Viewers are looking forward to seeing Meyers step outside of his comfort zone and shine on Late Night, but until he comes into his own, Seth Meyers may have a long (but flat) road ahead of him as late night TV’s new kid on the block.