TV Review: NBC’s ‘The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon’

NBC premiered The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon—Fallon took over hosting duties from long-time host Jay Leno—on Monday, Feb. 17, 12 a.m. ET. The following are reviews from TV critics around the web, compiled by B&C.

“Indeed, Fallon comes across as eager to please almost to a fault, and he treated his Tonight Show launch very much like a guy auditioning to be accepted into homes. He even went through a very basic introduction (he’s 39; married with a young kid; his parents were in the audience) that didn’t feel so much like late night satire as Katie Couric’s first episode of her syndicated daytime show.”
—Brian Lowry, Variety

“If he didn't exactly come roaring out of the gate, Fallon did demonstrate the mixture of old-world courteousness, junior-high-school goofiness and seemingly unending enthusiasm that has charmed audiences, network bosses and fellow stars. And when he restarted the show, coming out again to do the monologue, all about the Olympics, it felt a lot more like what Fallon's Tonight will be.”
—Steve Johnson, Chicago Tribune

“As if determined to distance himself further from the high-octane opening antics of the last new guy who tried to do this job—O’Brien—Fallon entered stage center in a muted gray suit. And if he didn’t go as far as apologizing for becoming the sixth man to host The Tonight Show, he did rigorously, and at times irritatingly, reaffirm his signature humility.”
—Mary McNamara, Los Angeles Times

“Apparently, it's a rule that every Tonight Show host has to do an extended monologue, even though the format does not show Fallon to his best advantage. An animated delivery and vocal imitations can only carry you so far when the jokes aren't particularly funny. His strengths lie elsewhere, as in a hip-hop dancing bit he did with Will Smith that highlighted his good-sport ability to get stars to play along with him.”
—Robert Bianco, USA Today

“Fallon wasn’t bad. He just wasn’t as good as he’s going to get. He also did nothing to suggest NBC made the wrong call in giving him the desk owned for the last half-century by Johnny Carson and Jay Leno.”
—David Hinckley, New York Daily News