Jimmy Fallon's 'Late Night' party will be missed

NBC handout

NBC handout

Bill Harris, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:46 PM ET

They're never the same, you know. When they leave Late Night and move up to an earlier hour, something changes. It's not necessarily bad, but it's definitely different.

It happened to David Letterman. It happened to Conan O'Brien. And now you can expect it to happen to Jimmy Fallon, too.

Friday, Feb. 7 marks the final episode of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon on NBC and CTV. Fallon takes over The Tonight Show in a week and a half, Feb. 17 on NBC and CTV Two.

In all the recent chatter about Fallon's promotion and Jay Leno's exit (again), few have taken time to lament the loss of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Mark my words, The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon – yes, he has gone back to the traditional “starring” as opposed to the more subdued “with” – will not simply be a carbon copy of his Late Night show. It can't be.

There will be plenty of time to evaluate Fallon's Tonight Show. But this column is about Late Night, which in its three incarnations has been, I would argue, the most innovative show in the history of late-night television.

It started with Late Night with David Letterman, which aired from 1982 to 1993. That was, arguably, the most important TV show of my life. Letterman was so funny, so bold, so experimental, so daring, so dangerous.

When Letterman moved to CBS after losing out to Leno for The Tonight Show, NBC gave Late Night to a then-unknown named Conan O'Brien. He wasn't as biting as Letterman, but O'Brien was just as unique. He's the longest-serving Late Night host to date, remaining at the helm from 1993 to 2009.

When O'Brien moved up to The Tonight Show, his replacement on Late Night was Fallon, already well known for his days on Saturday Night Live. From 2009 to 2014, Fallon definitely made Late Night his own, as did both Letterman and O'Brien before him.

Fallon's Late Night has been very music-based. It became the place where aging rock legends felt at home, which was ironic in that Fallon also made it his goal to connect with a younger audience.

In a recent “best of” special, I saw Fallon and Justin Timberlake doing their impressive “History of Rap” duet. At the end, they went up into the crowd, and I was struck by how young just about everyone was.

Now, that's not necessarily representative of the viewing audience at home – young people are more prone to go out and see things in person, and TV viewership always skews way, way older than you think it does, regardless of the show. But young people respond to things that are different, and Late Night always has been that.

David Letterman, Conan O'Brien, Jimmy Fallon. The first two never were better than they were on Late Night. We'll see what happens with Fallon.

Regardless, I can say with certainty that I will miss Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, just as I miss Late Night with Conan O'Brien and Late Night with David Letterman.

Late Night is where the party really is. Come Feb. 24, you bring the beer, Seth Meyers.

HOSTS of LATE NIGHT

DAVID LETTERMAN

1982-1993

Subsequent gig: The Late Show on CBS/OMNI, where he remains today.

CONAN O'BRIEN

1993-2009

Subsequent gig: The Tonight Show, then currently Conan on TBS/CTV

JIMMY FALLON

2009-2014

Subsequent gig: The Tonight Show on NBC/CTV Two, starting Feb. 17

SETH MEYERS

Takes over Late Night on NBC/CTV, starting Feb. 24

Subsequent gig: ?

Twitter: @billharris_tv

Bill.harris@sunmedia.ca

 


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