UPDATE: Well, Jimmy’s filling in where it didn’t quite work out for Conan, and started the gig this week, and Lorne’s about to extend his influence over late night with his latest golden boy Seth Meyers. This is how things looked five years ago on the 4th of March 2009, and despite the odd clipworthy bit of business on Graham Norton, we’re probably worse off now in the UK than we were then…
Network late night talk shows in the US are a curious thing. Every single weeknight there’s a veritable smorgasbord of celebrity guests trundling through various studios on both sides of the coast. Soon, on NBC, there are going to be a whopping 4 talk shows back to back from 10pm, all part of a baffling strategy to recover from the nonsensical fumble of nearly putting the shit-yet-popular Jay Leno out to pasture. Leno now has a new slot at 10, Conan O’Brien is taking over the Tonight Show from Leno at 11, and Jimmy Fallon’s taking over Late Night, with the punchworthy 90s throwback Carson Daly staying put with Last Call. Imagine Jonathan Ross followed by Graham Norton, followed by Michael Parkinson, followed by Lily Allen. Every night. Cripes.
Despite being some of the most infuriating, insincere and downright cringeworthy minutes of television to come out of the States, there’s still something endlessly fascinating about it all. Something which we’ve tried to replicate in this country with varying degrees of success, with only really Jonathan Ross and Michael Parkinson being given multiple bites of the cherry, which is a pretty sad state of affairs. For my money the only people who really did this right were Jack Docherty and Bob Mills, and they got sweet FA for their troubles.
The first part of the NBC shuffle happened this week when Conan O’Brien handed over the reins of Late Night to Jimmy Fallon. Fallon, an ex-SNL cast member, loved and hated in fairly equal measure, failed to set the box-office alight with two curious clunker remakes as star vehicles, Taxi and Fever Pitch. Once paired with the now white-hot Tina Fey during a purple patch for Weekend Update, it’ll be interesting to see if Fallon can pull it off and capture the nation’s imagination in the same way. He’s got non-threatening likeability in spades, and no less than The Roots as a houseband. Unlike most US television endeavours, Jimmy’s will have some time to bed in, unless he Chevy Chases it right up and becomes a laughing stock, but judging from this promising bit of “Slow Jam News”, I think he’ll get by.