There is no doubt about it. Jimmy Fallon simply gets it. He gets what late night TV is all about, what "The Tonight Show" is all about, and he gets how to keep all the aspects of both that audiences love even as he is changing it and making the show a reflection of his own distinct style.
All real New Yorkers stand up and applaud the fact that the Brooklyn-born Fallon is making it in a big way, bringing late night back to NYC where it belongs. To think that traffic and fog-infected LA owned the after-hours airtime from when Johnny Carson stole the show in 1972 and brought it to the West Coast?
What a breath of New York air it is that Fallon, a self-described "obsessed" New Yorker is bringing it back to its home on the East Coast, incorporating his success with a distinct New York City vibe. With the ratings showing that Fallon keeps winning the late-night TV war, it’s a sign that we are doing just that.
How can we not root for Fallon, who talks of doing stand-up at Caroline's comedy club in Times Square and whose personal panache and New York flavor is adding so much to a show that has been a cultural touchstone for generations?
A generation (or two) ago, TV viewing was limited. One of the reasons the Beatles were such a big hit in America is that everyone saw them on Ed Sullivan. Some people loved them, and others hated them, but no one could stop talking about them. It was this same reason that every comedian who wanted to make it big desperately sought Johnny Carson's approval. If you could get Carson to laugh and, wonder of wonders, if he invited you back on air, you had a major leg up in your career. If you went on and bombed ... well ... the opposite was true. In that era, the Tonight Show had numbers that TV will never see again.
In that generation, the Tonight Show benefited from a combination of limited competition and mass appeal, giving it clout that everyone envied. Yesterday’s entertainers wanted -- they needed -- to borrow some of that clout for themselves in order to remain successful or to move up in their career.
Today, however, those scales have shifted. Now, it's less about getting on the show than about what's on the show ... and what makes it beyond the show. Lasting entertainment value matters.
What you do with the time matters. Will your clip be watched and forgotten or will it be broadcast innumerable times on YouTube? That is a dynamic that Fallon understands implicitly. And it is why he so shamelessly borrows celebrity to make his own show a success.
From the History of Rap, to his kid instrument jams, Fallon understands how to connect the TV generation and the internet generation in a way Leno and his contemporaries simply could not manage.
Who else but an authentic New Yorker could make that happen? Go New York, go New York, go!
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Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5W PR.