Will Leno be missed on 'The Tonight Show'?

His jokes aren't funny and the concept is old. Will Fallon save the show?

April 7, 2013 

Jimmy Fallon has been appointed -- or is that anointed? -- as the new host of "The Tonight Show." People are acting as if there should be white smoke coming from a makeshift chimney atop 30 Rockefeller Center.

I don't get the fuss. Does anybody really care about "The Tonight Show" anymore?

It's worth talking about simply because it's a legendary show that invented a form, and there's only been a handful of hosts.

But this isn't the Johnny Carson or even the Steve Allen era of "The Tonight Show" that's coming to end. Is anyone truly going to miss Jay Leno?

Maybe so, but it's hard to see why. Leno comes off as a nice guy, and maybe that's what people want in a "Tonight Show" host. But his monologues are painful to sit through -- hackneyed jokes with awful delivery -- and his interviewing skills are below average. His "Headlines" segment is sometimes funny, but you have to wonder if some people just print those things up on their computers.

The "Jaywalking" segments are amusing, but it's hard to believe they weren't faked. (Those people, if they aren't hired actors, at least have to sign releases. If they're willing to let themselves look that stupid on TV, they're probably willing to pretend to be that stupid so they can be on TV.)

And, even though he comes across on the show as a genial guy, Leno has shown a profound lack of class. In 2009, he quit the show and when his new show bombed, he demanded "The Tonight Show" back from Conan O'Brien. True, NBC was complicit, but Leno still showed himself to be a slime.

And the other night, while he was talking about Fallon taking over the show, Leno said he "had to call Dave Letterman and let him know he didn't get the 'Tonight Show' … again." The fact that it's such a despicably mean-spirited thing to say might have been forgivable if it

were funny, but obviously it's not. It's just cruel.

Besides that, the very format has become so tired -- mediocre monologue, some kind of skit or desk piece, then the host at a desk (for some reason), a guest to his right plugging a new movie and telling obviously scripted and usually fictional anecdotes, a rock or country band playing one song in the last four minutes.

Actually, maybe that's why this is worth getting excited about.

I'm not a Fallon fan, especially, but at least he's tried to do some new things with his very-late-night show.

So there's reason to hope.

But not much reason. Letterman and O'Brien both had hilarious shows in that same time slot on that same network.

They did much more inventive stuff than Fallon has ever done, and Letterman did it decades ago.

Both of them, though, when they moved to the 11:30 p.m. spot, lost their edge and their creativity and became the same old, monologue-and-awkward-interview type of host.

Odds are Fallon will do the same. We can only hope he'll keep the Roots, the best band in late-night TV these days.

Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-748-0411. ext. 7919. Follow twitter.com/martinclear.

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