Last week it was decreed that Jimmy Fallon would be taking over hosting duties at The Tonight Show in early 2014. This development surprises me, as I had expected Leno to stay on The Tonight Show until he literally died on stage. (And when I say "literally" here, I literally mean "literally", and not "figuratively", in that I expected Leno's heart to stop beating while he was on stage at the NBC lot in Burbank.) I am also surprised because I remember the infamous Conan Debacle of 2009 to 2010.
It feels to me that the Conan Debacle happened just yesterday. Yet it began almost four years ago. Someone who was in eighth grade when Conan assumed command of The Tonight Show would now be getting ready to graduate from high school. Funny how time flies, as Tears for Fears said at the end of one of their songs in the Eghties. (This is not the first mention of Tears for Fears on this blog, but it's been almost three years since the last time that I mentioned them, so, once again . . . funny how time flies.)
History makes me think that this new Tonight Show experiment won't work. In 2009, people didn't want funny Conan, they wanted unfunny Leno. And I have to expect that in 2014 people won't want funny Fallon, they'll want unfunny Leno. (This isn't to say that Fallon is as funny as Conan, but Fallon is definitely funnier then Leno.)
As for me, I'll probably keep watching Jimmy Kimmel, because although Kimmel isn't nearly as funny as Letterman was when Letterman was funny, Kimmel is funnier than Letterman is now.
And then there is Craig Ferguson. Ferguson is funny, and possibly the smartest of the late night hosts, but while Jimmy Fallon's show feels like a party, Ferguson's show feels like what one would expect to see on television at 1:00 am—a man alone in a dimly-lit room with a robotic skeleton.
I am reminded of an odd thought that I have been having recently, which is that the Celts dominate late night. Ferguson is from Scotland, Conan describes himself as "110% Irish", Leno is half Scottish, and Fallon is half Irish. I don't know if it's coincidence, or if there is some cultural reason for it. Back in 2009, it even caused me a little confusion between Conan and Fallon—two tall, thin Irish guys from Saturday Night Live, both hosting late-night talk shows on NBC. Of course, talking about matters of ethnicity like this could lead to trouble from the perspective of political correctness, but as long as I stick with discussing freakishly pale northern European-derived people like me, I should be okay, and I won't need to record a country-rap crossover song about being an accidental racist.