Jimmy Fallon’s first flight on ‘Tonight’

SNL-alum takes the reigns of late night icon and provides ample laughs, charm and goofiness.

In an effort to remain transparent, I want to first disclose that I’m a big Fallon fan; a FalPal. Jimmy graces all of my electronic screens; his old “Late Night” logo is stitched into my black, winter ski hat I bought from the NBC Universal store; and there’s a 20x30 black and white print of him hanging over my bed.

Nonetheless, I’m going to aim for objectivity.

Second, I’m going to drop all proper journalistic norms and refer to him as Jimmy. “Fallon” and “Mr. Fallon” just don’t work for me.

So: after over 40 years, NBC brought Tonight back to New York City, and though he had a new studio, a new (really tall?) blue curtain, and a new opening sequence written and directed by Spike Lee – he was the same Jimmy.

One thing I really liked about the first episode was how Jimmy didn’t just jump right in.

Instead, he introduced himself (Jimmy Fallon), his gang (his in-house band, The Roots; his announcer and friend, Steve Higgins) and how his show would work. He told viewers about “Hashtags”, and “Thank You Notes” and even pointed to the glitzy, pink, four-leaf clover that would serve as his mark on stage for his opening monologue.

But overall, week one was goofy.

In his first five days as host, Jimmy Fallon filled the stiff, fresh, blue guest couch with many familiar faces: friends (and old SNL co-workers) Kristen Wiig and Will Ferrell were there; First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama was there; and “good friend of the show” a.k.a. BFF Justin Timberlake was there – quite the reunion.

More than one of  Hollywood’s elite – far past the point of needing late-night publicity – sacrificed his or her interview time with Jimmy. There was less cue-carding and ‘talking about your new movie’, and more reminiscing on the past, embracing the future and having fun in the moment.

For instance, Kristen Wiig dressed and acted as One Direction heartthrob Harry Styles (sans British accent, oops) during her segment. Jimmy, trying his best to interview Wiig as Styles – in his own ‘Jimmy way’ – lost it.

One should note that Jimmy was often criticized during his days a SNL for breaking character and laughing during bits. However, since his career in hosting late-night television began, spurts or floods of laughter are among his most humanizing qualities.

He gets so jazzed about things, and he's so energized by the presence of other humans, that he has the poker face of a 5-year-old. He laughs, and somebody else laughs, and then everybody laughs more,” wrote Linda Holmes of NPR, after Jimmy’s last episode of ‘Late Night.’

(watch 3:30-3:50 if you need a smile)

Week one was also safe

Jimmy featured sketches of song and dance that had already proven themselves as crowd favorites on ‘Late Night’. There were appearances from the barbershop quartet, The Ragtime Gals, who sang R. Kelly’s classic "Ignition”; there was a fifth – yes, fifthinstallment of “History of Rap” from Jimmy and Timberlake; and FLOTUS Michelle Obama “ew!”-ed alongside Sara (Jimmy) and Stacy Wallace (Will Ferrell) in the recurring, Valley-girl inspired segment of “Ew."

Jimmy gave new viewers – Leno fans? – reason to appreciate him as the well-rounded entertainer that many late-night hosts aren’t. And he gave long-time fans the very things that they tune in for: a likable guy, some good-natured fun and a smile-provoked sense of justification for being tired at school or work each morning from Tuesday through Friday.

Sure, he could have challenged himself and the show a little more. But given the fact that he had a new-age bracket to convince, I would have played it safe, too.

There’s no telling when the standing ovations, energy and excitement of Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon might die down, but it should be clear that Jimmy is no political satirist. He doesn't – or hasn't – had controversy associated with his name because he isn’t into putting people on the spot, or making viewers or guests uncomfortable: he’s beefless, and it’s his good-guy demeanor that makes him so charming.

During his first show, after a quick moment reminiscing about his childhood, and how he used to beg his parents to stay up to watch Johnny Carson’s monologue, Jimmy took his seat for the first time, and told viewers what he wanted to achieve with his new, 11:30-role.

“My goal is just to make you laugh, and put a smile on your face so that you go to sleep with a smile on your face and live a longer life. Isn't that the whole goal of what we're doing? To have fun?"

Well if it isn’t already, that sounds like a good mantra to me.

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