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Jimmy Fallon's Beta 'Tonight Show' (Review & Video)

Photo of Caryn James By Caryn James | James on Screens February 18, 2014 at 1:15PM

If you want a sense of what Jimmy Fallon's Tonight Show will be, look at his guest list. The first episodes feel like a soft launch.
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Fallon Tonight

If you want a sense of what Jimmy Fallon's Tonight Show will be, look at his guest list. Will Smith and U2, the guests for last night's opening show, didn't seem like the most entertaining choices. But on Thursday, the first night the show moves to its real time-slot instead of following the Olympics at midnight, Fallon's guest will be Michelle Obama. Friday brings everyone's best guest, Justin Timberlake. The first episodes feel like a soft launch.

Fallon's opening was more sentimental than his cheerful ending to Late Night. He introduced himself to people who might be watching for the first time (as if there were people who didn't' know about this gig). He mentioned his wife and daughter, introduced his parents, thanked pervious Tonight hosts (mentioning Leno twice in the list; how could he not?). He looked almost as ashen as his dull gray suit. After telling the audience what the show would be, he jokingly started over – and seem a little more at ease.

The best opening night sketch started with Fallon looking into the camera and convincingly telling a friend who bet against him hosting The Tonight Show that he owed Fallon a hundred bucks. A parade of stars came on to deliver, from Robert De Niro to  Stephen Colbert, who paid  up in pennies and shouted "Welcome to 11:30, bitch!"

Will Smith and Fallon's History of Hip Hop Dancing didn't come close to his History of Rap with Timberlake or History of Mom Dancing with Michelle Obama. But it was a sign that he'll keep on doing the show he does best. Monologues and interviews were never his strength; the best parts of Late Night could easily have fit on SNL. Maybe in a few days he'll get over sounding gaga about the fact that he has the Tonight Show, and everything will feel less beta.   

This article is related to: Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Fallon, Television, Spike Lee, Will Smith, U2, Robert De Niro, Stephen Colbert, Justin Timberlake

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