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February 18, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

The debut of Jimmy Fallon as host of the Tonight show came off smoothly and efficiently, most critics agreed. But many suggested it was not likely to bring the show many new viewers in the long run, that is, after the curiosity period wears off. Wrote Los Angeles Times TV critic Mary McNamara: “As if determined to distance himself further from the high-octane opening antics of the last new guy who tried to do this job — [Conan] O’Brien — Fallon entered stage center in a muted gray suit. And if he didn’t go as far as apologizing for becoming the sixth man to host The Tonight Show, he did rigorously, and at times irritatingly, reaffirm his signature humility.” Echoed Robert Bianco in USA Today: “While gratitude and humility are admirable traits, there were times in Monday’s opening moments when Fallon risked taking them to uncomfortable extremes. One more ‘thank you,’ one more ‘I never thought I’d be here,’ and viewers might have wondered whether they wanted to be there themselves.” Likewise, Alessandra Stanley, the New York Times’s TV critic, noted that “throughout the show, Mr. Fallon made nice more than he made jokes.” And Stanley herself may have raised a few eyebrows when she commented on Fallon’s memory about growing up begging his parents to stay up to watch Johnny Carson. “Unlike Mr. Fallon,” she remarked, a kid today “isn’t likely to grow up aspiring to host the Tonight show anymore than he will get his news from a paper edition of The New York Times.” Chicago Tribune writer Steve Johnson referred to the “moments of real, almost awkward sincerity” that infused the show, then added, “If he didn’t exactly come roaring out of the gate, Fallon did demonstrate the mixture of old-world courteousness, junior-high-school goofiness and seemingly unending enthusiasm that has charmed audiences, network bosses and fellow stars. Indeed, during the show itself first guest Will Smith helped polish Fallon’s aw-gosh image when he remarked, “I was watching all of the people come to support you. People are coming to you. They’re coming because of your heart.” There followed a parade of celebrities who appeared on stage to complete Fallon’s gag that one of his best friends owed him $100 for once telling him that he’d never host the Tonight show (“and you know who you are!”), each of them handing him a $100 bill. One of those in line was late-night rival Stephen Colbert, who got the biggest laugh of the night when he took a selfie with Fallon, then remarked, “Welcome to 11:30, bitch!” By the way, not a single critic was willing to predict whether Fallon would succeed in his new job.