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The Top 10 Moments from Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show Debut

Long story short: Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show debut was fantastic.

I’d even go so far as to say it was worth the wait. I have been counting down the days until Fallon took his place behind the Tonight Show desk, I’ll admit it. I’m a big fan of late night TV and of Fallon, who won me over way back when on Saturday Night Live‘s Weekend Update. I also happen to go to bed way earlier than I used to, so staying up to catch Late Night with Jimmy Fallon after midnight just hadn’t been working out lately. Yes, I know I can DVR these things, but there’s something that doesn’t feel right to me about watching a late night show during the day or even in the earlier evening. I guess I like to keep some rituals consistent … or maybe I’m just really picky.

tonight show mug

Image credit: Facebook

In any event, I was pleased. I like the idea of Jimmy being on right after the news, and I have a feeling he’ll keep the Late Night with Jimmy Fallon “house party where anything can happen” vibe. It’ll be a welcome update to The Tonight Show, and I think he’s enough of a versatile and charming entertainer that he can win over Leno fans.

So how did his debut go? The hour flew tonight, but a lot happened, and most of it was very good. Here are some highlights of Jimmy Fallon’s very first outing as the host of the Tonight Show.

1. Jimmy’s before-the-monologue intro

I loved how he took a few minutes before the actual monologue to introduce himself, express his gratitude — and what looked like genuine, pleased surprise — that he has this gig and to give details about his life to viewers who may not have been previously familiar with him.

Who does that on TV anymore? Who makes an actual effort to talk to the people who will be bringing him into their living rooms, albeit through a TV screen, every night? No one I’ve seen lately. I thought his acknowledgement of his parents, wife, and daughter, Winnie Rose, in the audience were lovely. This was just the right approach for a young man taking over a television institution; he honored it, which is just another reason why I’m glad to see him taking the helm.

jimmy-fallon

Nice work, Jimmy Fallon.

2. The Spike Lee-directed intro

Yes. The intro for The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon is the work of the great director Spike Lee. It’s cool and creative right out of the gate. Five stars from me.

3. U2 performs on the Rockefeller Center rooftop

U2

I challenge anyone to come up with a more widely appealing musical guest than U2 and station them atop a rooftop to perform a song with a backdrop of a gorgeous Manhattan winter sunset. Actually, I don’t. I think we should just sit with this one for awhile. “Invisible” is reported to be the first single off of their upcoming studio album. U2 and the view? Unparalleled …

Image credit: Twitter

4. The Roots are are still the house band

The Roots had been Fallon’s house band on Late Night since it premiered in 2009, and they made the jump to The Tonight Show. They’d been a part of the many awesome musical moments with Fallon so far, so it wouldn’t have been the same without them. The only person perhaps almost as amped as Jimmy about this debut was Questlove, who tweeted through the debut.

5. A parade of celebrities with $100 bills

In case anyone was worried Fallon couldn’t pull the star power … don’t worry. He’s got this. Robert DeNiro, Tina Fey, Joe Namath, Lindsay Lohan, Lady Gaga, Mariah Carey, Joan Rivers, Mike Tyson, and Sarah Jessica Parker popped up to settle their alleged bets that Jimmy would “never be the host of The Tonight Show.” Here’s the official GIF set from the show. (This went up very quickly. Yes, Jimmy has his own blogging team. Of course he does.)

6. Stephen Colbert

As part of the celebrity crowd welcoming Jimmy onstage, Colbert once again made late night history with “Welcome to 11:30, b*@ch.”

fallon-colbert

Epic, as they say on the Internet — selfie and all.

Image credit: YouTube

7. Joan Rivers returns to NBC

Johnny Carson famously banned Rivers from the network in the late ’80s after she started up a competing talk show on Fox. Fallon appears to have mended that fence by including Rivers in the stream of stars who came across the stage to greet him.

fallon-rivers

Image credit: YouTube

8. “Evolution of Hip-Hop Dancing” with Jimmy and Will Smith

Say what you will about Fallon, but he’s always in motion. Physical humor and musical performances have always been a part of his act, from SNL to Late Night. He’ll keep the conversation as well as the song and dance lively, you can bet on that, and he started off strong on this act with Smith.

9. Jimmy plays a song with U2

fallon-u2

U2 came back after their rooftop performance for a sit-down with Jimmy that was charming in its own right. Then they offered him a guitar, and they played a lovely acoustic version of “Ordinary Love,” a song from the Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom soundtrack. Besides Jimmy’s pre-show introductions, this was my favorite moment of the entire night. It reflected Jimmy’s easy way with even the biggest stars and their tendency to kick back and relax around him. I think it bodes well for him on The Tonight Show.

Image credit: Twitter

10. Jimmy Fallon

Yes, Jimmy himself is pretty much enough to kick this show into awesome for me. As Will Smith said in his interview about all of the celebrities who popped up in the monologue, The Tonight Show is a big deal, but “people are coming for you; for your heart. Your art is a gift to people.” This has been true from SNL to Late Night, and there is no reason it should change on The Tonight Show.

jimmy-fallon

Image credit: Facebook

The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon is on every weeknight at 11:35 following your local news on NBC. If you can’t get enough of that, the social team for this show is intense. There is an app, a blog, a Tumblr, a Facebook page, and a very heavily used Twitter feed, @FallonTonight.

Also this week? Fallon and Timberlake, together again. Enough said. And if there’s anything remotely as funny as Hashtag? #Winning, I’m sure we’ll see it here.

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