Jimmy Fallon took over “The Tonight Show” and quickly made a Jay Leno joke.
“I’m Jimmy Fallon, and I’ll be your host - for now,” Fallon said, referencing Leno turning the show over to Conan O’Brien only to take it back a few months later.
Fallon doesn’t have anything to worry about. It looks like he’s going to be there a long time.
Not that his first show was great. Fallon wasn’t hilarious. But he was likable. And, in the long run, that will serve him well.
Likable works well in TV.
Which is not to say that there weren’t laughs on Monday night. The opening bit was great. “To my buddy who said that I’d never be the host of ‘The Tonight Show’ - and you know who you are - you owe me a hundred bucks, buddy,” Fallon said.
Then we saw a parade of big names - Robert DeNiro, Tina Fey, Harrison Fey, Joe Namath, Rudy Guiliani, Mariah Carey, Tracy Morgan, Joan Rivers, Kim Kardashian, Seth Rogen, Lindsay Lohan,Sarah Jessica Parker, Mike Tyson, Lady Gaga - slapping down bills.
Stephen Colbert topped it off, dumping $100 in pennies on Fallon’s desk and on Fallon, taking a selfie with Fallon; and shouting, “Welcome to 11:30, bitch!”
And it was kind of cool that Rivers was in that parade, making her first appearance on “The Tonight Show” since she quit as permanent guest host, went to Fox and Johnny Carson banished her 28 years ago.
And a taped bit with Fallon and Will Smith performing the evolution of hip-hop dancing was good. It was amusing. And it effectively made it clear that Fallon is going to do things Leno never did. Or could do.
The greatest flaw in Fallon’s debut is that he treated it far too often as a Momentous Television Moment. It’s OK for people like me to point out the history of “The Tonight Show” and talk about how this is a Momentous Television Moment, but when Fallon did it it came across as more than a bit pompous. And he didn’t always wear the “Oh, shucks” attitude well.
But now that he’s done it, he can move on.
And I’m betting Fallon will be doing “The Tonight Show” for a very long time.
Note: “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” airs at 11 p.m. MT on NBC/Ch. 5 this week because of the Olympics. Beginning Monday, Feb. 24, it moves to the traditional weeknights at 10:35 p.m. MT time slot.