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On the box

15 Jul 2014

By Korey Fernando

Wouldn’t it be great to live in a world where Karl Stefanovic does a late night talk show? Why hasn’t that happened yet?

Despite the fact that local variety programming has been popular in Australia for almost as long as the medium itself, we still have a huge void in the programming guide when it comes to local late night variety entertainment post 9pm.

Not so in the United States, where the “late night” timeslot is a fiercely competitive market. Letterman, Ferguson, Hall and Kimmel are just a few of the many late night hosts that battle for the ratings. Earlier this year, the exit of Jay Leno from The Tonight Show, started a major changing of the guard in the late night television landscape.

Since then, David Letterman and Craig Ferguson have both announced their retirement and this has the allegiances of many devoted fans up in the air.

The show that virtually pioneered the format, The Tonight Show, has been at the forefront of American variety television since 1954.

Today, with new host Jimmy Fallon, The Tonight Show is a high-energy, well-scripted spectacle.  Fallon originated on the sketch comedy Saturday Night Live before making his transition to the late night format for a few years prior to his most recent position.

The Tonight Show is the big one. All the biggest and most popular stars are on as guests, or make cameos in short, to-the-point skits. After Fallon took the reins, there became a heavy emphasis on these celebrity-laden novelty segments.

Many of these clips have gone viral and brought in a much younger audience.

In comparison to other shows in the genre, The Tonight Show is largely much of what you’d expect from a late night chat show – but there are a few characteristic changes.

Fallon as a host is young and energetic. He plays outside of the type – he isn’t dry and sarcastic, he’s lively and positive. He doesn’t condemn people in his monologues: he comes across as a very grounded and likeable person.

It should be said however that after watching many episodes the idea that he’s best buds with each new guest can wear a little thin and Fallon has been criticised for “playing it safe”. For the most part though, it’s a very earnest and refreshing take on a tried and true format.

If, like me, you can’t stand to hear about neighbourhood disagreements and detailed reports on laundry detergent, The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon is filling the Rove-shaped hole in our hearts on ABC2.

The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon airs on ABC2 weeknights at 7.30pm.

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