In Fallon, Finally, a Worthy Carson Successor? – UPDATED

Good for Jimmy Fallon for his clever and very smart debut last night as the new host of the Tonight Show. Good for him for bringing it back to New York. Good for NBC for letting him. Finally, I have a reason to check out a late-night talk show again, because finally — while no one will ever top Johnny Carson in the gig — a worthy successor has been found.

I’ve always had the sense that Fallon, — like Carson — genuinely likes and is entertained by his guests, and he has Carson’s instinct to “make the guest look good”. Also, Fallon (again like Carson) is interested is more than himself, and that’s a good thing. People forget it, because it’s been a while, but one interesting thing about Johnny Carson’s show was that it was always about more than some star with a new movie or album to plug. Because he was interested in many things, he’d have astronomers on the show — or opera singers, or writers, or jazzmen, or old ladies who collected potato chips — and he trusted that his audience would be interested, too.

And he was right about that. It’s part of what made him great; he respected his audience’s ability to appreciate many things.

Enter, Jimmy Fallon, who I suspect has many of Carson’s strengths, and his broad enthusiasms, but seems to lack the dark personal baggage. Plus he doesn’t seem to take himself too seriously.

Jay Leno was okay, but he often talked over his guests and made it about him. Ditto Conan O’Brian, although I like him a lot. David Letterman has become an unwatchable, sour old crank who isn’t interested in anyone and doesn’t appear to trust or even like his audience. I really think Jimmy Fallon, will be the closest thing to the Tonight Show in its heyday. He might even be a throwback, past Carson, to Steve Allen — a smart, talented man who could guide a great conversation and then turn around and order Chinese Food for everyone, because he was feeling hungry of a moment.

I’m actually looking forward to staying up late, again.

Here are two great bits from last night. Fallon being paid off by everyone who ever bet him $100 that he’d never host the show, and a “Evolution of Hip-Hop Dance” with Will Smith.

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Glommed on to the Fallon photo
above from this site and, having now read the accompanying piece, am happy to see that others are thinking along very similar lines!:

[Leno and Letterman] each…conjured an aspect of Johnny Carson: the slightly befuddled Middle American decency (Jay), the cutting detachment (Dave). What both missed — and what Jimmy Fallon has — is the devil-may-care twinkle of debonair nonchalance that bridges those two qualities.

Just so. Read the whole thing.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • DeaconsBench

    And he’s a good Cat’lick boy from Brooklyn, too :-)

  • Augustine

    Nay, given that young adults are not turning the telly on, Carson’s heir is this:

  • Manny

    I persoanlly prefer Leno. There’s a goodness that Leno emitts. I find him gracious and humble. Fallon seems ok. Pesonally I think he talks too fast. Maybe it’s me, but I can’t always understand his articulation. At least he’s not supercillious and snobbish like Letterman.

  • ladybird

    I’m not so much enamored. He’s a nice kid. But a silly kid. Johnny was sophisticated and clever even when he was silly.
    I can’t remember the last time I used the word “sophisticated.” The word and characteristict must be passe.

  • Manny

    Is he religious Deacon? Do we know?

  • Steve31

    Leno was too hard on Obama….

  • DeaconsBench

    It’s unclear how observant he is now. But once upon a time, he wanted to be a priest:

  • craig

    Eh, he’s the only one who actually treated Obama without bootlicking, like a standup comedian normally treats politicians.

  • Manny

    Thanks. At least he’s not hostile to the church.

  • Christian LeBlanc

    Wow…a National guitar. I had heard they were weird-lookin’.

  • Peter Calabrese

    Can Jimmy Fallon be a part of bringing Americans together? Interesting also his comments on the Catholic Faith and the celebration of the Mass.

  • ladybird

    I’ve watched 3 Fallon shows and I’m afraid that will be it for me. Last night with the First Lady and Will Ferrell was nothing more than government propaganda and dumb comedy. I could not believe the cheers. Ew! The “dumbing” down of America is pretty much complete.