This morning on MSNBC, they had a media critic on to "review" Jimmy Fallon's debut show. I put "review" in quotation marks because, this being just another arm of NBC, and in fact broadcasting from the very same building as Fallon's show, we all know this is would really be just a thinly veiled promo for his show, right?
Well, that was no doubt the intention. But somewhere along the way this "Media critic" must have gotten the impression that she needed to retain some thin veil of credibility for some reason, because even though she tried her best to spin it in the best way possible, she could not give it any more than the meekest lukewarm review. In actual fact, she spent the vast majority of her piece absolutely trashing it. She pointed out that most of Fallon's schtick that didn't absolutely suck, and some that did, is stuff we'd already seen him do on SNL, from his impression of DeNiro done right to DeNiro's face, to most of his joking around with Timberlake (recalling their "Barry Gibb Talk Show" sketches). At the end, she did kind of half-heartedly say "but overalll, it was a good show, such & such sketch was funny, etc. etc", but she *really* rushed through that part, you could just see it wasn't really her honest opinion.
Considering the general reaction to the show that I've seen so far, I'd say it's a toss up as to who had a more disastrous Major Media Event in the past week, Jimmy Fallon or Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal.
As for me, I missed the very beginning of the show but I caught bits of it. I meant to watch the whole thing but I litterally couldn't, he was so painfully bad I had to keep turning away, futzing around on the computer, and coming back. I was really surprised how wet-behind the ears & amateurish he seemed in front of the camera, like it was his first time in a TV studio. He was *much* more awkward & uncomfortable than Conan's early shows were, and Conan really *was* an absolute novice in front of the camera. But Conan was also genuinely funny, with some good ideas right from the begining, there was clearly potential there to be mined (His very first show had "actual items", a bit so good it would take him over ten years to completely run it into the ground, and he can usually do that to a bit inside of three months. Plus, does anyone out there remember Conan's pretaped bit opening his very first show? *That* was a good cold opening.) On the other hand I have to disagree with this:
The big question for me is going to be...when Fallon finally figures out what he wants to do and how he wants to be, and what he therefore wants the show to be, will Lorne Michaels let him do it? Jimmy Fallon is not Conan O'Brien. Conan is a gifted writer who was working on 'The Simpsons' before he went to work on SNL and could have easily walked away and gone back to being a successful comedy writer if he'd been straightjacketed, and I think Michaels knew that.
I think that badly misreads Conan's actual status & clout in those early days. The plain fact is (and this didn't come out until years later), Conan actually *was* canceled in that first year. His numbers sucked, his early reviews sucked, and the suits didn't think they saw any real potential for improvement there. The decision was made. They were going to officially let him go by such & such a date, and spend the time until then lining up a replacement for him. They didn't want to make any official announcement or let Conan know until they had a better idea of what they were going to do with the time slot, so they held off telling him. Then they couldn't find anything to replace him. So they kind of "moved back" his kill date to give them more time, but in the meantime his ratings started to tick up as college age kids home for the summer started to tune in and decided they kind of liked it, then people started to notice that now & again he was actually kind of funny, and once they got used to Andy Ricther's decidedly non-Ed McMahn take on the sidekick's role they started to like him too. So NBC kind of put his cancellation "on hold" (while they kept half an eye out for something that might replace him) and took a wait & see attitude, at one point making the decision on a monthly basis whether to keep him on the air or not for another month. For the first couple of years of his show, Conan was literally just one hot, up-&-coming-young-comic-looking-for-a-TV-project away from being axed.