Jimmy Fallon Plays It Safe, Not Funny, On Late Night

NTV StationJimmy Fallon’s time on Saturday Night Live showcased him as a good-looking guy with no real acting ability, solid comedic timing and a tendency to mug for the camera. Thank the Lord someone noticed and decided to give him a talk show.

While Fallon won’t be taking over Late Night until 2009, when Conan O’Brien officially succeeds Jay Leno as host of The Tonight Show, he’s getting a head start on figuring out his show online.

Except, no. Not really. Back in July, Lorne Michaels promised that Fallon and his team would be producing 5-10 minute episodes of the new Late Night for web distribution. But in the time since that announcement the Fallon online experience has been downgraded from full-scale production to a behind-the-scenes look at the show in development: a making-of blog.

So what’s the reality of this first installment? Jimmy Fallon gives you a tour of the in-construction studio, still filled with NBC News crap, and then introduces you to his house band, the Roots. The Roots are cool, but that’s because the Roots are always cool. The rest is just Jimmy vlogging, and not particularly well, either. Because here’s the key thing: he doesn’t tell one joke. He doesn’t try and make us laugh once. And, I’m sorry, isn’t that the whole point?

Also, the Dove partnership is puzzling. Does NBC really think that women over 25 are the actual target audience for this show? I would have thought they’d aim the sponsorship at men aged 18-35 (traditionally late night’s highest demographic). Though perhaps I’m being sexist. Who’s to say men aged 18-35 aren’t passionate about skin care?

If Late Night With Jimmy Fallon were truly experimenting with online content as originally promised, we could have ended up with a show optimally tailored to web syndication, that understood what plays for Internet audiences and what doesn’t better than any other TV series. But this behind-the-scenes approach is the definition of playing it safe — it looks like when it comes to understanding the online world in late night, Spike Feresten will continue to be tops.

March 2009 is still a ways off, and perhaps before then Fallon will reapproach this web series and deliver on promises to play with the medium. But for right now, no points for the minimal effort here.

This review, along with more details about the show, can be found at NewTeeVee Station.

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