‘The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon’ gets help from New York City in shaky start

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‘The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon’ gets help from New York City in shaky start

Posted on: February 18th, 2014 by tommyj

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A visibly nervous Jimmy Fallon made it through his first “Tonight Show” with a little help from his friends.

And a lotta help from his city.

NBC/Lloyd Bishop

U2 (above) braves the cold to perform on the roof of 30 Rockefeller Center on ‘The Tonight Show.’

Fallon wasn’t bad. He just wasn’t as good as he’s going to get. He also did nothing to suggest NBC made the wrong call in giving him the desk owned for the last half-century by Johnny Carson and Jay Leno.

Monday’s opening night also proved Fallon may never make a better decision than his first one: bringing the show back from L.A. to New York.

NBC/Lloyd Bishop/NBC

Mariah Carey pulled money for Jimmy Fallon from her ever-expanding cleavage.

With no disrespect to Will Smith and U2, the city was his best guest Monday — and it will be back every night.

He also gave it the best imaginable showcase, trundling U2 up to the top of Rockefeller Center for a two-song rooftop concert.

NBC/Lloyd Bishop/NBC

Robert De Niro shuffled on stage soon after Jimmy Fallon announced a friend lost a bet to him.

After everything nature has thrown at New York this winter, it gave Fallon a perfect window for this gambit. As the cameras slowly rotated around the roof, a clear dusk put a shimmering ripple of sunset colors behind the silhouetted Manhattan skyline. It’s a view only available here.

U2 did a solid job with the music as well, despite being bundled up in seasonally appropriate outerwear.

NBC/Lloyd Bishop/NBC

Tina Fey paid Jimmy Fallon a visit during the opening night of ‘The Tonight Show.’

The whole setup unmistakably harkened back to the famous London 1969 rooftop concert that turned out to be the last-ever performance of the Beatles. It’s safe to say that historical footnote was lost on neither Fallon nor Bono.

Things back in the studio were a little less spectacular, though the new set seems fine.

NBC/Lloyd Bishop/NBC

Mike Tyson was among the small army of celebrities that made brief and mostly silent cameo appearances in an early routine.

For whatever reason, probably no more complex than plain old first-night jitters, Fallon didn’t bring his A-game to go with his A-list of guests.

That included a small army of amusing celebrities who made brief and mostly silent cameo appearances in an early routine. At the end of his monologue, which was flat, he declared that some unnamed friend had bet him he’d never host “Tonight” and now that friend owed him a hundred bucks.

NBC/Lloyd Bishop/NBC

Jimmy Fallon was visibly nervous on his first night of hosting ‘The Tonight Show.’

One beat later, Robert De Niro shuffled on stage and threw a C-note on Fallon’s desk.

Tiny Fey followed, and soon another dozen celebs paraded out from behind the curtain.

NBC/Lloyd Bishop/NBC

Jimmy Fallon gets a hand from Seth Rogen on ‘The Tonight Show.’

Mariah Carey pulled the money out of her ever-expanding cleavage. Sarah Jessica Parker pulled hers from her shoe.

The last parader was Stephen Colbert, who brought his hundred bucks in a bucket of pennies.

NBC/Lloyd Bishop/NBC

Kim Kardashian was another celebrity friend who lost a bet to Jimmy Fallon.

He dumped them on Fallon’s desk, then Fallon’s head, then got in Fallon’s face and hissed, “Welcome to 11:30, bitch!”

If only all the first-night welcomes had been that funny.

NBC/Lloyd Bishop/NBC

Lindsay Lohan stopped by ‘The Tonight Show’ to visit host Jimmy Fallon.

Fallon has become a pretty decent interviewer, but most of his time with Smith was spent swapping compliments and sharing laughter that felt more nervous than relaxed.

They also did a mimed dance bit together that lasted far longer than the joke and was probably the one time that Ma and Pa out in the Midwest looked at each other and said, “I don’t think we’re in Leno-land any more, Toto.”

NBC/Lloyd Bishop/NBC

Sarah Jessica Parker pays up to Jimmy Fallon on ‘The Tonight Show.’

Since part of the reason NBC decided to go with Fallon instead of another edgy Conan O’Brien was that it hopes to keep Ma and Pa watching, those bits probably need wider appeal.

Still, Monday night was neither ominous nor fatal. Fallon’s formal ascent to the “Tonight” desk was in fact a small and gentle step compared to the four-year tragicomedy that preceded it.

NBC/Lloyd Bishop/NBC

Stephen Colbert snaps a selfie as Jimmy Fallon hosts ‘The Tonight Show.’

Thanks to some serious miscalculations by NBC, what could and should have been a graceful handoff for one of TV’s most prestigious batons became a nightmarish run of drops.

The sheer clumsiness of the Conan mistake — trying to give the show to O’Brien four years ago, then quickly pitching it back to Leno — has shadowed everything since.

It made Leno, who seemed genuinely willing to play the good soldier, look like a puzzled and slightly petulant child who demanded to know what the grownups were doing.

It made Fallon, who kept his head down, look like a beneficiary of vaguely unpleasant forces.

All that doesn’t go away immediately because Fallon has the chair. But he can make it go away once he relaxes and owns the show the way Carson, Leno, Steve Allen and Jack Paar did.

Everything on TV these days, especially on broadcast networks, is a gamble. Even a brand as time-honored as “Tonight.” The good news for NBC is that it’s hard to see a better bet out there than Jimmy Fallon. In New York.

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