Sunday, February 23, 2014

It's Our Time Now

This week Jimmy Fallon assumed his role as the newest host of NBC’s TONIGHT SHOW. The broadcast is back in New York, after decades in LA under Carson/Leno. I’m not much of a late-night guy, but I’m glad that Jay Leno’s gone and Jimmy’s got the job. I could not relate to Leno or Los Angeles, or his stock punch lines, cue drum beat and studio laughter. He was classic cars and denim shirts. Leno belongs to the older bunch. He’s outdated. He’s low energy.

I view this hosting change as more than just that. I see it as a full-blown societal torch passing. Gone are the days of Fred Willard and “Jay”-Walking and here are the days of Justin Timberlake and Will Smith and the History of Rap and Slow-Jamming the news and high-energy humor that represents my generation. It’s our time now, and Jimmy is the face of our era in popular culture.

Jimmy is going to create a NYC-based show that translates to You Tube and Facebook and Twitter. I don’t think a single Leno moment has ever trended on Twitter. Almost everything Jimmy does goes viral, and that’s where this generation does its Monday-morning quarterbacking. Plus, Jimmy still has that wide-eyed, I-can’t-believe-this-is-happening-to-me look about him. Ah, hash-tag humor.

I feel like I know Jimmy, not only because he grew up in New York and went to St. Rose and worked at the METROLAND, but also because he handles his success the same way I would if ever given the chance, which I won't, of course. But that’s what the great ones do. They make it look easy, accessible, relatable, when the reality is, the talent level is unequaled. Yep, I think JF is the most talented performer out there. If not, who is? He belongs to us. He’s ours.

I only hope NBC doesn’t get hung up on any ratings dip as we go from Leno to Jimmy. The ratings may not be as high but that’s not the whole picture. First off, Leno’s bloated ratings came from sixty and seventy year olds falling asleep with the TV on. Nobody actually watched that bore fest. Second, Leno had zero water-cooler oomph. Nobody was talking about what Leno did last night. Jimmy might not get eight million a night every night but his work will bring a bunch of day-after buzz and millions of hits on the social media sites. Jimmy’s chief fans are working professionals in their 30s-40s with careers and kids. We can’t stay up till midnight on a Tuesday to watch TV. But I’ve never heard the TONIGHT SHOW talked about like it was this week. That’s gotta be worth something.

So here we are, Generation X, the top spot on TV is ours. What's that look like? It looks like a kid from Upstate New York who wears too many skinny ties and has more talent and work ethic than anyone in the world. He's made it to the Big Apple. He’s our pop-culture template, because I like to think we’re smart, a bit quirky, hardworking, and ready to laugh at ourselves. We exercise, eat right, and take care of each other. I love my generation, and I like seeing us represented via an original, comically-clever, and thoroughly-excited superstar, who still thinks he’s the kid who snuck in the back door of fame and shouldn’t be there. Jimmy Fallon is me, and my best friends, and my colleagues, and my social circle. We're connected to him. And everybody likes to feel connected to something bigger, better, even if said connection is entirely inexistent.

I was actually in NYC the first night the new Fallon show aired. Our hotel room was on the 50th floor of the Crowne Plaza in Times Square. Through our window, we could see the top of the Rock Bldg. where U2 gave an outside performance on the roof. We could see the lights and people packed around as it was filmed, about 7-8PM, I think. We were so close. I felt like I could reach out and touch it. The truth was we were blocks away. But geography doesn’t matter. We were at that show. We were in the scene. We were a part of it.

It's our time now.

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Brian Huba

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