Lorne Michaels set to rule late night TV
The creative team of Producer Lorne Michaels and multitalented Jimmy Fallon are ready to takeover and renew The Tonight Show
SNL: Behind the scenes with Dan, John, Chevy, Laraine and Gilda
Lots of stars thank Lorne Michaels for their start
Think Lorne Michaels hasn’t earned the status of ruler of late night TV? Then consider this list of comedians he’s groomed as executive producer of SNL:
- John Belushi
- Dan Aykroyd
- Chevy Chase
- Adam Sandler
- Eddie Murphy
- Gilda Radner
- Chris Rock
- Phil Hartman
- Jimmy Fallon
- Dana Carvey
- Tina Fey
- Will Ferrell
- Seth Meyers
- Amy Poehler
- Tracy Morgan
- and more.
It's not David Letterman, nor one of the Jimmys. If you’re looking for the new king of late night TV, Lorne Michaels is poised to take that post.
In 2014, Michaels will be the executive producer of the Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon, Late Night starring Seth Meyers, along with Saturday Night Live — the unique, nocturnal comedy/rock show he created.
NBC has amazing faith in Michaels’ talent, installing him as captain of their trio of important late-night vessels.
Michaels faces tremendous challenges and entertainment opportunities when the latest versions of the Tonight Show and Late Night premiere in the spring of 2014.
It makes for some interesting late night TV viewing. Perhaps must-see TV or at least DVR worthy.
Some will argue that it’s impossible to dethrone Johnny Carson as emperor of American late night television. Until recently I would have agreed with the Johnny supporters. After all he was the host of the Tonight Show for 30 years and dominated TV ratings.
If you're focusing exclusively on late night hosts Carson's the man! Even David Letterman, whose about to break Johnny's three decade seniority record and a big Johnny Carson fan, would agree.
However, examine the entire spectrum of late night TV: weekdays and weekends, hosts and producers, I think you'll soon realize that Lorne Michaels has had a mayor impact on this lucrative niche on network TV.
Michaels is “a quintessential producer, because he knows how to find talent, he knows how to encourage talent and he knows how to let people do their thing,” SNL alum-turned-superstar Amy Poehler, told the New York Daily News.
Alec Baldwin, who stars on the Michaels production of 30 Rock, also shared his thoughts about Michaels with the New York Daily News. “That he's going to be doing the Tonight Show now is pretty far out,” Baldwin said.
“Sure he's got all these legacy names on his resume," Baldwin continued. "But it just keeps on going. Look at Jimmy Fallon, one day he was doing ‘Weekend Update’ on SNL and was a warm, likeable, funny, very charming guy. (Then) he's taking Jay Leno’s job.”
If Fallon’s Tonight and Meyers’ Late Night generate solid ratings, tweets and buzz, Michaels will have earned his well-deserved spot at the pinnacle of American late night TV.
Michaels and Fallon have produced a sit-up-and-take-notice late night show. It’s funny, different — yet somehow familiar — and hip.
Late night viewers choice: Two Jimmys and a Dave
When Fallon succeeds Leno as host of Tonight, the late night landscape will feature: Jimmy Fallon vs. David Letterman vs. Jimmy Kimmel. (Letterman kids that CBS wants him to change his name to Jimmy.)
Of the group, the Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon is THE show to watch.
The Michaels-Fallon duo marries an inventive comedian, musical talent with a creative producer of late night TV. They’ve really excelled on Late Night. They’ve molded the nocturnal TV formula into a distinctive brand of comedy skits, musical parodies, star-participatory games and social media-linked bits.
It works. It works for both Millennials and Baby Boomers.
Some late night TV milestones
► The Tonight Show is America’s longest currently running, regularly scheduled entertainment program. It debuted on Sept. 27, 1954.
► Johnny Carson has served the longest as its host. He sat behind the Tonight Show desk for 30 seasons.
► David Letterman has been a late night TV host for 31 years: 11 years on NBC’s Late Night and 20 years on CBS’ Late Show. He broke Carson's longevity record in August 2013,
Moving the funny Michaels-Fallon formula to Tonight
Now, after four years entertaining away in the post-midnight slot, these huge talents take center stage when they transition to the Tonight Show, which is moving back to New York City, after Johnny Carson left New York in 1972.
NBC’s move to Fallon occurred soon after Jimmy Kimmel switched time slots from midnight to 11:30 pitting his younger, hipper show directly against two talk show veterans: Leno and Letterman. When the move was made in January, many TV insiders wondered if NBC might wait too long to promote Fallon and risk many of the sought-after younger viewers tuning to Kimmel on ABC.
A lot of factors went into NBC’s decision to switch Tonight Show hosts, including ratings and demographics. It turns out that Fallon’s audience is not too young. According to the New York Times, the median age of Fallon viewers is “a surprising 53.3. That is considerably younger than Leno’s 58.1, but it is not a vast generational difference.”
Jimmy Fallon Performs a Spot-on Parody of "Sexy" Neil Young
Fallon's humorous Thank You Notes - a bit on his show
Fallon is a major talent
Fallon is a multi-talented performer, who is comfortable tossing out jokes in a nightly monologue, playing characters in skits — reminiscent of his SNL days — or performing musical parodies. In addition to being a quick wit, Fallon is an excellent singer who's not afraid to perform comedy duets with such greats as Justin Timberlake, Paul McCartney and Bruce Springsteen. ►
Another ingredient that makes Fallon’s show special is the Grammy Award winning band, The Roots. This house band is a far cry from Doc Severinsen’s group. The Roots are involved in many musical skits, including Slow Jamming the News and Freestylin' with The Roots. In the latter bit, Fallon goes into the audience (reminiscent of Johnny Carson’s Stump the Band) and asks audience members random questions. The Roots then create a unique song about them.
The one area where Fallon is weak is his interviewing skills. In many of his interviews of Hollywood-types, he comes across as a star-struck fan tossing out easy and predictable questions. A Dave Lettermen he’s not. But while Letterman unsuccessfully attempted to Tweet live on his show, Fallon makes extensive use of social media. During his weekly Hashtags bit, Fallon posts questions on Twitter and asks his audience to tweet responses to such subjects as: "My doctor is weird", "My worst Super Bowl party" and "How I got fired.”
NBC is betting that Tonight Show viewers will agree with a New York Times reviewer who raved in 2011 that Fallon’s show is "the most enjoyable late-night show.” –TDowling
© 2013 Thomas Dowling