Fallon's premiere makes him a good bet to succeed - The Buffalo News

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Fallon's premiere makes him a good bet to succeed

By Alan Pergament

I got up this morning doing what I imagine many Western New Yorkers will do later today -- watch the premiere of "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon" on my DVR.

After all, it started at midnight, when I ordinarily fall asleep on the couch watching NBA games.

Many WNYers stayed up to see Jay Leno's replacement.

The premiere had a healthy 7.6 rating on Channel 2, the local NBC affiliate, despite its midnight start.

But I am sure the rating will go up a few more points after DVR and other secondary recording is added.

I didn't watch it live because I wanted to be alert watching it this morning to answer the key question: Is it worth watching or should I just keep it on my DVR?

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It is absolutely worth watching.

The premiere seemed designed to show viewers that Fallon isn't Leno or Conan O'Brien.

Fallon may have set one "Tonight" record -- the number of times he used the word "excited" to describe his feelings.

He is much more mainstream and at ease than Conan, who had the job for six months before Leno got it back.

I mean who can't instantly love a guy who spends the first several minutes on "The Tonight Show" explaining who he is and where he comes from to his new audience and also introducing his proud parents?

After doing that, he smartly started the show all over again, with announcer Steve Higgins introducing him a second time from behind "The Tonight Show" curtain.

It wasn't long before the bit that likely is the most-talked this morning arrived -- more than a dozen stars led by Robert DeNiro walking on one at a time and supposedly paying off a $100 bet that Fallon would never become host of "The Tonight Show."

Stephen Colbert, whose 11:30 p.m. Comedy Central show will compete with Fallon after the Olympics ends, dumped $100 worth of pennies on Fallon before welcoming him to the late-night competition with a word that I can't repeat.

Then Fallon teamed with first guest Will Smith on a filmed piece -- The Evolution of Hip Hop Dancing -- (see NBC photo above) that reminded viewers that he isn't Leno.

Smith later sat down as Fallon's first guest, playfully advising -- or warning the host -- "everything is riding on tonight."

Smith was an animated guest, talking about his experience sky diving, which I imagine is only slightly less scary than hosting "The Tonight Show.'

U2 joined the fun, singing a tune from the 70th floor of 30 Rock, with the New York skyline aided by a beautiful sunset that may have reminded viewers the show actually is filmed at 5 p.m. or 5:30 p.m. in New York City.

Considering the weather New York has had this winter, the sunset certainly seemed to be a good sign for Fallon.

Bono and the band later sat down on the couch and he and The Edge performed a musical version of the Oscar-nominated song "Ordinary Love" that brought the audience to its feet.

Smith was overstating it by saying that everything was riding on Monday's debut. The success of "The Tonight Show" will be determined more by a marathon than a sprint. Fallon's show certainly will evolve as much as Hip Hop dancing or more.

But off the first show, I'd bet $100 in pennies that the odds are that the likable Fallon will prove to be more than an ordinary love for local late-night viewers.





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