The much-hyped debut of The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon was a fun, if mostly routine, affair. Finally, after 42 years, The Tonight Show is back in New York—a fact that definitely means nothing to the coveted younger-than-42 demo that NBC hopes Fallon will draw. That balance between retaining older viewers and drawing in younger ones certainly explains the night's two (announced) guests, Will Smith and U2, who are both utterly harmless.
Here's what happened.
The new Tonight Show opening credits were directed by Spike Lee. As Fallon put it, he gets to open every show with A Spike Lee Joint.
Fallon then opened with a gracious monologue. He thanked his parents, who were in the audience, and joked at the whole Jay Leno-Conan O'Brien kerfuffle. "I'm Jimmy Fallon, and I'll be your host," he said. "For now." When listing his predecessors, Fallon listed Leno twice.
Steve Higgins is still the announcer, The Roots are still the house band—it's nothing anyone familiar with Late Night hasn't seen before. The tradition of Questlove announcing the episode number at the start of each show has been reset, however, with an emphatic "Ooonnee!" The monologue mainly concerned the Olympics. It was fine!
The most interesting portion of the show came as Fallon took his seat behind the desk. In a bit about people who bet him $100 that he'd never host The Tonight Show, a parade of guest stars came out to throw money at Fallon. They were, in order: Robert De Niro, Tina Fey, Joe Namath, Rudy Giuliani, Mariah Carey, Tracy Morgan, Joan Rivers (quietly ending a long, long ban from the show), Kim Kardashian, Seth Rogen, Lindsay Lohan, Sarah Jessica Parker, Mike Tyson, Lady Gaga, and Stephen Colbert. Colbert ended the bit with an emphatic, "Welcome to 11:30, bitch!" which we can only hope is an O.C. reference.
Fallon then got some help from Will Smith for a new installment of his "Evolution of Dance" skit. This time it was hip-hop dance. To nobody's surprise, they did the Carlton move.
Then—just in case you were still skeptical that The Tonight Show is now filmed in NYC— U2 performed at the top of 30 Rock at sunset, which was actually pretty impressive. They had help from members of the Rutgers Marching Band.
During the interview portion, Fallon spoke to Will Smith and then U2, and all of the guests were very boring. Is there any celebrity as inoffensive as Will Smith? Probably not.
All in all, this new version of The Tonight Show seems—to nobody's surprise—very similar to Fallon's Late Night. Hopefully, Fallon lasts longer than seven months.