The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon

Last updated on 27 May 2017

The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon is an American late-night talk show hosted by Jimmy Fallon, on NBC. The show premiered on February 17, 2014, and is produced by Broadway Video and Universal Television. It is the seventh incarnation of NBC's long-running Tonight Show franchise, with Fallon serving as the sixth host. The show also stars sidekick and announcer Steve Higgins and house band The Roots. The Tonight Show is produced by Katie Hockmeyer and executive-produced by Lorne Michaels. The show records from Studio 6B in Rockefeller Center, New York City.

The program airs weeknights at 11:34 p.m. ET/AT. The show opens with Fallon's topical monologue, then transitions into comedic sketches/games, concluding with a guest interview and musical performance. The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon has attracted high ratings since its 2014 premiere, consistently beating competition. In addition, many moments from the series have originated viral videos. The show has been nominated for nine Primetime Emmy Awards, winning two.

On August 13, 2015, NBC announced that Fallon signed a contract to remain as host until at least 2021.

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Background

History

The Tonight Show premiered on NBC in 1954 as Tonight, hosted by Steve Allen. Jack Paar hosted the show from 1957 to 1962, but the show's longest-running and most famous host was Johnny Carson, who hosted the show for three decades. Following Carson's 1992 retirement, "vast quantities of brainpower, money, and column inches were devoted to the issue of who was truly best suited to carry the franchise forward." NBC chose interim guest host Jay Leno, who took over the show that year. A pair of conflicts ensued over Leno's 22-year tenure, both revolving around hosts of Late Night, a program directly following Tonight since its premiere in 1982. David Letterman was considered Carson's top choice and left the network acrimoniously in 1993, and NBC attempted to transit second Late Night host Conan O'Brien to succeed Leno in 2009, but the plan failed when a nightly prime-time show starring Leno posted less than stellar ratings, leading to a domino effect on the late local news. O'Brien's Tonight also suffered falling ratings. O'Brien too left the network the following year, and Leno was reinstated as host.

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Show title, used since summer 2015 when the NBC peacock replaced the GE sign on the Comcast Building

Jimmy Fallon, a former cast member on Saturday Night Live, was appointed the third host of Late Night by executive producer Lorne Michaels in 2009. Fallon incorporated the Internet much more than other talk shows. Between Fallon's own musical sensibilities and the recruitment of his house band, hip-hop collective The Roots, his incarnation of Late Night "evolved into the most deeply musical of TV’s musical-comedy variety programs", with sketches in which he parodies Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen going viral online. Coincidentally, it was during the Tonight Show debacle that Fallon's show found its footing. The show, according to Fallon's former SNL castmate Tina Fey, established itself as "an uncommonly warm, welcoming show." In 2010, New York complimented Fallon's "good humor" and noted his improvement: "In the relative safety of his 12:35 a.m. time slot, Fallon has been cultivating a distinct, and refreshing, strain of humor: the comedy of unabashed celebration." "In our heads, we've been doing The Tonight Show […] We're just on at a later hour," Fallon said.

Transition

Fallon grew up with no designs on the Tonight job (unlike O'Brien or Leno), most likely because he was just 17 years old when Carson retired. Discussions for Fallon to take over The Tonight Show began in early 2013, with the transition intended to happen by late 2014 at the latest. Many industry observers noted that the change appeared to come as a result of another late-night competitor, Jimmy Kimmel (24 years old at the time of Carson's retirement) of Jimmy Kimmel Live! on ABC, who moved to the 11:35 slot months prior; NBC feared that by waiting too long to promote Fallon, Kimmel could create a stranglehold on young demographics, which is key to the financial success of the franchise. Fallon had reportedly impressed top executives at Comcast (which had recently completed a full takeover of NBCUniversal), and his succession was widely expected throughout the company. The transition reportedly lacked the tension of previous Tonight transitions, and the program's relocation east "signals NBC’s strong commitment to not messing with the program any further."

On April 3, 2013, NBC announced that Leno would retire in 2014, with Fallon taking over The Tonight Show beginning on February 24, 2014. At Leno's suggestion, the date was moved forward from the end of his contract in September 2014, to February so as to use NBC's coverage of the 2014 Winter Olympics as a springboard for Fallon's tenure. The date was later moved up a week to February 17, midway through the Olympics.

As Leno's contract ran until September 2014, much of his staff were paid until that month.

Emphasis on sketch comedy

By bringing over many of his recurring bits and features from Late Night, Fallon has departed in a few ways from the format which Leno used for his show. Fallon's edition places less emphasis on his opening monologue, a feature which was a staple of the Leno edition. In his opening episode, in which he described what the format of the show would be, he only briefly mentioned the monologue.

The show has many recurring segments and games that are played with the various celebrity guests. The most popular of these, Lip Sync Battle, was spun off into its own show by Fallon. Other segments include playing charades, Catchphrase, Pictionary, or other familial style games.

Additionally, Fallon and celebrity guests regularly appear in sketches parodying pop culture or political events. These segments normally take place after the monologue, but have occurred as a cold open for the show on a few occasions. Just as he portrayed Mitt Romney during the 2012 election season, Fallon portrayed Republican candidate Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders. Alongside Fallon's impressions, other celebrities occasionally appear. Several have recurring roles, including Dion Flynn as Barack Obama, David Alan Grier as Ben Carson, Aziz Ansari as Bobby Jindal, the show's announcer Steve Higgins as Jeb Bush, and the show's head writer AD Miles as Lindsey Graham.

After his critically acclaimed appearances as Trump on Tonight, Fallon was asked to play the role on the December 19, 2015 episode of Saturday Night Live, since Taran Killam (who had been announced as the season's Trump) would be busy playing Ted Cruz. Fallon accepted the offer, but the plan fell through at some point before the show. The role was filled by Darrell Hammond, who played Trump over his fourteen years on SNL.

Fallon has also appeared as figures such as Vladimir Putin and Bob Dylan.

Production

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The show originates from the Comcast Building at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York City.

The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon originates from NBC Studio 6-B in the Comcast Building at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in New York City, the original home of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, where it is taped every weekday at 5pm. The studio housed both Carson and his predecessor, Jack Paar, before the franchise's move to Burbank in 1972. "It is where The Tonight Show started -- actually in the studio where we are going to be, that's where Johnny Carson was, there's Broadway, there's Times Square, there's something glamorous about it. That is The Tonight Show," Fallon remarked. NBC spent approximately $5 million renovating Studio 6-B, where Fallon had been taping Late Night, for The Tonight Show's return to New York City. The upgraded 6-B contains improved acoustics and a seating capacity of around 240, up from 189, but smaller than the seating capacity of The Late Late Show. The investment also included a new control room and a new lobby to welcome guests. The larger audience also meant NBC could take advantage of a newly enacted New York state tax credit for talk shows that are "filmed before a studio audience of at least 200, as long as they carry a production budget of at least $30 million and have been shot outside New York for at least five seasons." Fallon's Late Night successor, Seth Meyers, is housed directly above his studio in Studio 8-G; the combination created logistical challenges for executives, who were concerned about "sound bleed" (as the building was built with steel girders, sound is too easily conducted floor to floor). As a result, The Tonight Show tapes at 5:00pm, and Meyers' show tapes later in the evening, at 6:30pm.

The show's set was designed by theatrical set designer Eugene Lee, known for his credits on Saturday Night Live, whom Fallon thanked on-air on his first episode. The set "emphasizes stained wood and a mid-century modern style," including "a slate blue couch, a handsome honey-colored wood desk and matching walls." Behind the desk near the city backdrop is a wood-carved miniature replica of New York City skyscrapers. "I think it's Eugene Lee's masterpiece," said producer Michaels. Fallon's monologue spot is noted by a painted four-leaf clover on the floor. "Fallon’s new set is purposefully old-fashioned compared to the college-cafe-in-the-meatpacking-district where he lived on Late Night," said Entertainment Weekly. USA Today called the set more "intimate and theatrical" than the set employed on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and The New York Times called it more elegant, "but also quite formal and a little impersonal." The show's logo, its title set against a full moon, is a callback to The Honeymooners, while the title is a throwback to Carson's tenure: Leno and O'Brien both favored a "with," rather than "starring," in their respective titles.

In November 2014, a new marquee was added to 30 Rockefeller Plaza's Avenue of the Americas entrance that promotes the building as the home of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon; the new marquee was also designed so that it can be usable as a stage for performances. John Wallace, NBCUniversal's president of technical operations, described the marquee as being a "bold statement" that The Tonight Show had been brought back to New York. Fallon joked that the marquee "makes it exponentially harder for them to fire me", and that he was "jealous of Letterman."

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The Tonight Show marquee, located at the West entrance of 30 Rockefeller Plaza at 1250 6th Avenue

Format

The show's opening sequence, directed by filmmaker Spike Lee, features Fallon visiting various New York City landmarks, including Grand Central Terminal and Katz's Delicatessen. Steve Higgins introduces the show with "From Studio 6B in Rockefeller Center, in the heart of New York City, it's The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon!" and announces that night's guests and "the legendary Roots crew". The show's theme song is "energetic with jazzy overtones" with "Hey Jimmy", designed to match the shots of the city. Just before Higgins introduces Fallon, the camera cuts to a shot of The Roots, and Questlove shouts the numbers symbolizing the episode number of The Tonight Show. Higgins then introduces Fallon with a drawn-out "And now, here's your host/here he is, Jimmy Fallon!", and Fallon begins his brief monologue.

Prior to composing an entirely new theme song, bandleader Questlove noted to Vanity Fair that they were considering a variation on Late Night's theme, which itself is a sped-up adaptation of The Roots' 2006 song "Here I Come". For their transition to The Tonight Show, The Roots added two horn players from Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings ("You can't be The Tonight Show without a horn section," said Questlove). As he did on Late Night, Jonathan Cohen supervises the show's musical guest bookings.

Following the monologue, the main segments are a mix of interviews and performances—examples of the latter include musical impressions, lip-syncing contests, games of Pictionary and egg Russian roulette. His celebrity interviews are throwbacks to "Merv Griffin-style celebrity gush."

Before the first airing of the show, Fallon expressed that it was essentially an extension of his tenure at Late Night, explaining that his Tonight Show would be "the best of the best of what we do". The show has carried over some of Late Night's well-known performance bits, such as "Egg Russian Roulette", a game in which Fallon challenges guests to pick random eggs and then smash them against their forehead to see whether the eggs are raw or hard-boiled. Each week, Fallon has carried over a popular sketch from his Late Night days: the absurdist "Thank You Notes" segment, in which "he dutifully composes notes of gratitude to abstract concepts and inanimate objects." Fallon has another segment which is particularly popular in the sports world. The segment is called "Tonight Show Superlatives". He chooses a league such as the NFL or NHL and gives out yearbook style Superlatives based on player names and pictures. There has even been a website dedicated to his NHL Superlatives.

Remote broadcasts

While the vast majority of episodes are produced at the show's New York home base, Fallon's Tonight Show has gone on the road to produce episodes remotely in its first year, spending four nights at Universal Orlando Resort in Florida in June 2014 to promote new attractions at NBCUniversal's theme parks there. Four nights of shows from Universal Studios Hollywood in Los Angeles aired February 2015, in the days immediately following a special Sunday night show from Phoenix, Arizona airing after NBC's coverage of Super Bowl XLIX on February 1, using the Stage One facility previously utilized for Conan O'Brien's Tonight Show run, and also E!'s Chelsea Lately until its August 2014 end. The L.A. shows brought Tonight back to the locale where it had been based since Johnny Carson relocated the program from New York in 1972 until the start of Fallon's tenure, and echoes Carson himself hosting special broadcasts from the L.A. region prior to the relocation. Fallon is set to host The Tonight Show again from Universal Orlando Resort, April 3–6, 2017, in anticipation of the opening of Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon, a ride based on his tenure at the show.

Episodes

Notable episodes

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Fallon at his desk on the show's premiere episode

In the show's debut episode, Fallon introduced his supporting stars and gave a brief history of his life and career, following it up with a sketch, "The Evolution of Hip-Hop Dancing", with actor Will Smith and a musical performance by U2 at the Top of the Rock. Following the show's premiere, many notable episodes of the show have produced segments that went viral on sites like Facebook and YouTube. Among the show's most popular bits are lip sync battles; one featuring actress Emma Stone aired in April 2014 is the most highly watched online video of the program. In October 2014, actor Daniel Radcliffe recited rapper Blackalicious' "Alphabet Aerobics", which became a popular viral video. Other clips, including the Wheel of Musical Impressions with singers Ariana Grande and Christina Aguilera have been widely viewed, as has a clip of Fallon and comedian Kevin Hart riding the Hollywood Rip Ride Rockit roller coaster during the show's first remote broadcast at Universal Studios Florida. Sketches that reunite casts of television shows, such as Saved By the Bell, in addition to a cappella versions of popular songs performed by Fallon and the Roots, have also been popular. The show's most widely circulated interview segment was one aired in January 2015 with actress Nicole Kidman, who jokingly revealed that she once had a crush on Fallon, to which at the time he was oblivious.

In September 2016, Fallon faced criticism after an interview with the republican candidate Donald Trump. People felt that Fallon humanized Trump, who had made controversial statements (i.e. that some illegals bring drugs and crime). Fallon responded to the controversy claiming that nobody should have expected him to ask difficult questions since he is never hard on anyone. Fallon acknowledged that the interview was a setback three months after Trump was inaugurated.

Reception

Critical reviews

The debut episode received mixed but generally positive reviews. The New York Times's Alessandra Stanley referred to the show's premiere as "more sweet than sassy," calling Fallon "the grateful heir, the eager freshman, the class clown with top grades and a good heart, someone older viewers can embrace without fear of being mocked or overlooked." Tim Goodman of The Hollywood Reporter was positive in his assessment of the evening, but noted the older fanbase used to Leno may not latch on as quickly. "Indeed, Fallon comes across as eager to please almost to a fault, and he treated his Tonight Show launch very much like a guy auditioning to be accepted into homes," said Brian Lowry of Variety, who considered the premiere episode a demonstration in Fallon's strengths and weaknesses.

The first season of the show was deemed "wildly successful." Entertainment Weekly summarized the show's inaugural year: "In his first year as host of The Tonight Show, [Fallon] turned the revered late-night franchise into the hottest party in town, a celebrity playpen full of games, music, surprise guests, and good vibes all around." Nevertheless, detractors of the show, such as John Walters of Newsweek, criticized Fallon for his weakness in interviews. One writer for Conan, a fellow late-night show, criticized Fallon for creating what he dubbed "Prom King Comedy"—eschewing odder, more clever material for an over-reliance on games and celebrity cameos. Rolling Stone's Rob Sheffield opined that Fallon's effect led the medium to become overly friendly.

Ratings

The debut episode of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon averaged a 3.8 rating in adults 18–49 and 11.31 million viewers overall in Nielsen's fast-national estimates. This made it the second-largest audience for The Tonight Show since May 2009, behind Leno's final farewell two weeks earlier and the transition to Conan O'Brien nearly five years prior. The program's first full week averaged 8.490 million viewers, making it the franchise’s most-watched week in 20 years. Following its premiere, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon has consistently won its timeslot in ratings, routinely beating Late Show with David Letterman and Jimmy Kimmel Live!. Despite this, the ratings for competitors never significantly fell, with Fallon winning due to a surge in younger viewers. In his first year as host, Fallon's Tonight Show improved on ratings delivered by his predecessor Jay Leno.

The series' post-Super Bowl episode in 2015 averaged 9.8 million viewers despite its late 12:13 a.m. start time. The following week's shows from Los Angeles maintained its highest ratings since its premiere. The show fell to second place on the debut night of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert that September, though it quickly rebounded and has remained in first place. In 2016, a New York Times study of the 50 TV shows with the most Facebook Likes found that Tonight "is more popular in cities than in the surrounding countryside".

However, beginning in early 2017, The Tonight Show lost total viewership to The Late Show with Stephen Colbert for sixteen consecutive weeks beginning from the week of Donald Trump's inauguration and also marked the first time that The Late Show with Stephen Colbert was rated became the highest rated late night TV show by total viewership for the first quarter of 2017. Despite this loss, The Tonight Show led in the 18-49 year old demographic. The Late Show with Stephen Colbert became the highest rated late night talk show for the September 2016 to May 2017 season, averaging 3.2 million nightly viewers, beating The Tonight Show.

Awards and nominations

Primetime Emmy Awards

Year Category Nominee(s) Result Ref.
2014 Outstanding Variety Series Lorne Michaels, Jamie Granet Bederman, Rob Crabbe, Katie Hockmeyer, Jim Juvonen, Brian McDonald, Gavin Purcell, Josh Lieb, Jimmy Fallon Nominated
2015 Outstanding Variety Talk Series Lorne Michaels, Jamie Granet Bederman, Katie Hockmeyer, Jim Juvonen, Brian McDonald, Gavin Purcell, Josh Lieb, Jimmy Fallon Nominated
2016 Outstanding Variety Talk Series Lorne Michaels, Jamie Granet Bederman, Katie Hockmeyer, Jim Juvonen, Brian McDonald, Gavin Purcell, Josh Lieb, Jimmy Fallon Nominated

Creative Arts Emmy Awards

Year Category Nominee(s) Result Ref.
2014 Outstanding Directing for a Variety Series Dave Diomedi Nominated
Outstanding Interactive Program N/A Won
Outstanding Lighting Design/Lighting Direction for a Variety Series Fred Bock, Phil Hymes, Jared Kirchmer, Francis Biancamano, Mike Baldassari Nominated
Outstanding Writing for a Variety Series A. D. Miles, Patrick Borelli, Gerard Bradford, Luke Cunningham, Mike DiCenzo, Mike Drucker, Jess Dweck, Dicky Eagan, Jimmy Fallon, John Haskel, Josh Lieb, Arthur Meyer, Chase Mitchell, Dan Opsal, Gavin Purcell, Jon Rineman, Albertina Rizzo, Jason Ross, David Young, Michael Jann Nominated
2015 Outstanding Directing for a Variety Series Dave Diomedi Nominated
Outstanding Interactive Program N/A Nominated
Outstanding Social TV Experience Gavin Purcell, Marina Cockenberg, Jimmy Fallon, Christine Friar, Felicia Daniels Won
2016 Outstanding Directing for a Variety Series Dave Diomedi Nominated

Effect

Much like Fallon's preceding tenure on Late Night, many clips of the show have been made available on YouTube, Facebook, and other services shortly after its television broadcast. Many clips have gone on to become viral videos, which, along with widely viewed videos from competitor Jimmy Kimmel Live!, had an effect on the entire state of late-night television. Media pundits have predicted that future programs' accessibility online will be more important than their television ratings. David Letterman, a thirty-year veteran of the format who was the first host of Late Night and then hosted Late Show on CBS until 2015, partly retired due to his inability to produce viral bits.

On October 27, 2015, it was announced that the attraction Twister...Ride it Out at Universal Studios Florida would be closing on November 2, 2015 to make room for Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon, a ride based on Fallon's Tonight Show, which opened on April 6, 2017.

Broadcast

In Australia, The Tonight Show premiered on The Comedy Channel on February 18, 2014 – airing the same day as its U.S. broadcast. It also airs on free-to-air network ABC2 (as opposed to The Comedy Channel which is a subscription television network) on a two-day delay, premiering on March 24, 2014. On September 21, 2014 The Comedy Channel dropped The Tonight Show, making ABC2 the exclusive broadcaster of the show in Australia at the time. Beginning March 2, 2015, the series returned to pay television, this time, however, airing on E! – airing within hours of the American broadcast.

In Belgium, the show airs with a delay of several days on Vier at midnight CET every Monday through Friday, and at 11:05 pm CET every Sunday. The show's first broadcast took place on October 12, 2015.

In Brazil, the show airs on the subscription channel GNT since February 24, 2014, under the title The Tonight Show com Jimmy Fallon. GNT broadcasts the show on a three-day delay at 1 am with Portuguese subtitles.

In Canada, The Tonight Show airs on CTV Two, broadcasting simultaneously with NBC.

In MENA Countries, the show airs on OSN First Comedy HD, And re-two hours after the presentation on OSN First Comedy +2.

In France, the show airs at 6:15pm every Monday to Friday on pay television Canal+.

In Germany, the show airs at 11 pm CET the next day every Monday to Friday on One. The show's first broadcast took place on January 25, 2016. It includes German subtitles.

In Italy, the show airs Monday through Friday at 10:45pm CET on pay television network FOX the next day from the original NBC broadcast. It started airing on September 19, 2016 .

In New Zealand, The Tonight Show airs on Prime.

In the Philippines, CT airs the show.

In Portugal, The Tonight Show airs on the subscription channel SIC Radical every Monday through Friday at 10 pm.

In South Asia (excluding Sri Lanka), The Tonight Show airs on Comedy Central India same day as NBC.

In Southeast Asia (including Sri Lanka), The Tonight Show airs on CNBC Asia with back-to-back editions of the show on weekends, and on E! Asia within 12 hours after the U.S.

In Sweden airs on TV12 the next at 6 PM local time.

In the United Kingdom, the show airs a day after broadcast on E! at 10pm local time. An edited-down 30-minute version airs on CNBC Europe at 11 pm GMT, airing on a one-show delay from NBC. A selection of the best episodes are shown on Saturdays and Sundays from 9 pm CET in a 45-minute format.

See also

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