After months of talk and lead up, The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon finally premiered last night on NBC. The guest list was a who’s who of famous stars including Will Smith, U2, Robert DeNiro, Tina Fey, and more. There was no question that NBC pulled out all the stops when it came to getting guests for their new late night flag ship.
The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon has moved back to broadcast from New York City for the first time in over 60 years. Being in New York will help with the guest list as stars will no longer have to travel back to Los Angeles to be on the show (the stars don’t really live in Hollywood anymore).
Here is the question then about the premiere. With all the stops being pulled to bring in all the big names, and all the advertising that went in to promoting this show, should NBC worry about Jimmy Fallon’s ratings from the premiere? The Tonight Show’s debut ratings were 25% lower than Jay Leno’s farewell episode despite both shows having the same powerful Olympic lead-in. What could be worse for Fallon though is that the premiere of The Tonight Show tied the ratings for the premiere of Conan O’Brien’s show and O’Brien didn’t have Olympic support and he made his debut in the Summer when ratings for all shows are typically lower.
What does this mean for NBC? I’ll tell you. It shouldn’t mean anything. We are talking about NBC though and they are godawful when it comes to making TV decisions so really anything could happen here but if I were in charge, I’d relax and wait to see what happens.
Jay Leno and Jimmy Fallon have very different fan bases. This is precisely why NBC fired Leno despite Leno being at the top of the ratings game. Leno’s demographic skews older than the network wants. Fallon’s fan base is in the age demo that the network covets. They are younger, hipper, and they are the group that advertisers love to target.
Moving Fallon up to the prime late night slot comes with higher expectations for sure. He can’t bring the same audience with him from his Late Night and expect NBC to call those numbers a success. He has got to find a way to build more of an audience than he already has. This will be his challenge but I think he will be successful.
Fans of Jay Leno who tune in to Jimmy Fallon are going to notice the difference right away. Fallon is not a good interviewer. He just isn’t. One of the weakest parts of his show is any time he sits down to talk to a guest. If that is all his show would be, then he would be in trouble. What makes Fallon good and what is going to help him is his ability to create viral content. He is more of a performance artist than a talk show host and that is going to be what sets him apart from the other late night hosts. Take what he did last night with Will Smith for example. Similar to what he has done in the past with Justin Timberlake and the history of hip hop, last night Fallon and Smith brought us the history of hip hop dance.
Jimmy Fallon and Will Smith in The History of Hip Hop Dance
That is a fantastic segment and it has been all over the internet today. Fallon’s ability to do things like this is what sets him apart. He is going to have to do more of these kinds of things and work more to appeal to a broader audience than he has in the past. We get how funny and hip he is. He needs to spread the wealth and reach out to Leno’s fans.
I believe that he is going to be able to build a bigger audience. He is a genuinely funny guy with the talent to appeal to more people. If he continues to make content like the history of hip hop dance, NBC will not have to worry about Jimmy Fallon’s ratings for long.
If he keeps this up, given that he is younger and has a bigger slice of the younger demographic than his rivals do, you will see Jimmy Fallon become the king of late night. NBC just has to give that time to happen and remember, they are morons when it comes to running a TV network so anything can happen.