Something strange has happened over the course of my two years blogging about TV, something that I never would have thought possible: I’ve grown to appreciate Jimmy Fallon.
Wednesday night marked the two-year anniversary of Fallon taking over “Late Night” (12:35 a.m., NBC) from Conan O’Brien. At the time, I was dubious, to say the least:
I know Jimmy Fallon as the guy who ruined every sketch he was ever in on “Saturday Night Live” by giggling mid-scene. He didn’t impress me on the “Weekend Update” segments (I’m convinced that was Tina Fey doing the heavy lifting), and his movies have been terrible (“Taxi” anyone?). He seems like a nice enough guy, but I just don’t get the appeal of his dopey, self-conscious act. And he always looks vaguely dazed.
All that is still pretty much true today. Except now I get the appeal of his dopey, dazed, self-conscious act. Fallon is so nice, seems like such a good guy and is so sincere that his lovable goofball ways have won me over. He’s overcome an awkward start, learned to relax and has comfortably settled in to his cozy, weird little spot in the TV universe.
Compared to his late-night competition, Fallon’s not the greatest at delivering a monologue, and he’s not the best interviewer. But his goofiness is infectious, and his show is, by far, the most fun to watch. His live set pieces, ranging from audience dance-offs to celebrity charades, and recorded sketches such as “Real Housewives of Late Night” and “Jersey Floor” are almost always hilarious. His show revels in the absurd and the obscure, with enough random bits of pop culture thrown around that everyone feels included. He rules the Internet and social media like no other late-night host (though Conan comes close) with a steady stream of Twitter hashtag contests, fan interactions and viral videos.
Fallon has also ably taken Conan’s mantle as the place to hear cool music late at night. (Having The Roots as his house band sure doesn’t hurt.) Whether he’s reuniting classic bands such as Jawbox, The Dismemberment Plan and Bel Biv DeVoe or showing off indie-rock darlings such as The National, Beach House and The Vaselines, the music is always a highlight. And surprisingly enough, Fallon himself has become a musical highlight. (His imitations of Neil Young and Barry Gibb have became instant classics.)
It’s been the career move of a lifetime for Fallon. In the past few months alone, he’s had a birthday meal cooked for him by the cast of “Top Chef,” had a Ben & Jerry’s ice cream named for him, and jammed onstage with Bruce Springsteen. The guy’s loving his job, and it shows. When I get home after trudging through another late night at the newspaper factory, his show is my default TV choice and gets me off to bed on an upbeat note. Fallon has become a legitimate late-night star, and kudos to him for that.
I can’t be the only fan he’s won over — what do you guys think? Are you surprised by how good “Late Night” has gotten, or do you watch him and go “I don’t get it”? And is anyone else impressed that I wrote this thing and not once mistakenly called him Jimmy Kimmel? (I am.)