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View Count: 90 |  Publish Date: February 19, 2014
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Jimmy Fallon off to a good start on 'The Tonight Show'

So how did he do?
The Jimmy Fallon era of The Tonight Show officially began at midnight Monday when the 39-year-old former Saturday Night Live cast member walked through the royal blue curtains of a brand-new set at New Yorks Rockefeller Center. And then, a few minutes later, went away and started all over again.
The first entrance was devoted to thanking all the hosts whod come before him. He also thanked his parents, who were in the audience, his mom mouthing I love you and his dad cracking that hed paid a lot of money for Fallon to go to high school. Fallon reminded him it was a public high school.
The room was filled with awe, humility and comedy. And that was just on Fallons part. As for the audience, it was filled with obvious excitement at being part of a significant moment in TV history.2 entrances
After he spent a few minutes thanking everyone for believing in him, Fallon left the stage and was reintroduced by announcer Steve Higgins to deliver a standard monologue with topical references to the Olympics (the U.S. hockey team won the match against Russia, then the Russian team went missing, participating in a different kind of shootout, said Fallon in a comic Russian accent), Bob Costas case of pink eye (interviewing a mop and thinking Shaun White had grown his hair long again) and beginning it all with a softball joke about the chaotic era of musical-chairs Tonight Show hosts by saying, Im Jimmy Fallon and Ill be your host (beat) for now.
Given how many times Jay Leno referenced his impending second departure from the show over the past month or two, it was pretty tame. And more important, pretty minimal. The audience just wants good TV, not constant whining from a host, no matter how its packaged in one-liners.
(By the way, perhaps giving credence to the rumor that Leno may again wind up working for his former NBC boss, Jeff Zucker, CNN been airing a fluffy documentary on Lenos career over the past week. Its funny. Not funny humorous, but funny in that after Lenos final show, the rest of the TV world was ready to just move on, but not Zucker-ruled CNN.) A hundred bucks
As Fallon settled in behind the classy neo-Deco desk in front of a 3-D miniature New York City, he repeated his awe at being the new host and then said to the person whod told him hed never be the Tonight Show host, You owe me a hundred bucks.
Cue a stunning zoo parade of celebrities who came out from behind the curtain to slap a C-note on Fallons desk: Mariah Carey, Lady Gaga, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani (who thanked Fallon for bringing the show back to Gotham after 42 years), Tracy Jordan, Joe Namath, Tina Fey, Robert De Niro, Seth Rogen, Sarah Jessica Parker, Lindsay Lohan, Joan Rivers, Kim Kardashian, Mike Tyson and, finally, someone else who is competing for eyes at 11:30: Stephen Colbert, who dumped a bucket of pennies on his new competitors head.
Will Smith was the shows first guest, and his couch chat was a key moment in the show: While Smith is an easy interview because of his star wattage and engaging personality, the conversation between the two men was just that - a conversation. The kind of conversational interview Johnny Carson used to do, where the host is genuinely interested in listening to his guest as well as being funny.
Before the sit-down, the host and Smith, in matching overalls, did a comic riff on the evolution of hip-hop dancing, ending with Fallon twerking and Smith heading for the exit.
The shows other guests were Bono and U2, who would have blown the roof off Rockefeller Center for their first song of the night if it werent for the fact that they were actually on the roof of Rockefeller Center. Later, they joined Fallon on the couch for a talk and a performance of Ordinary Love, with Bono strumming guitar next to a wide-eyed Fallon.
Fallon wasnt so much nervous in his debut as he was overwhelmed by the moment.
At the same time, in just over an hour, Fallon established the tone and direction of the new Tonight Show: funnier, younger, warmer, friendlier and goofier.
Good show.
David Wiegand is The San Francisco Chronicles executive features editor and TV critic. E-mail: dwiegand@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @WaitWhat_TV

Keywords:
 Fallon   Funny   host   Leno   mom   night   part   Rockefeller Center   show   Smith   tonight   Tonight Show 

Picture Keywords
 Fallon   Funny   host   Leno   mom   night   part   Rockefeller Center   show   Smith   tonight   Tonight Show 
Time: 0:58  |  News Code: 378103  |  Site: San Francisco Chronicle
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