| NEW YORK
NEW YORK Feb 18 Jimmy Fallon took the reins of
the long-running "Tonight Show" on Monday night, bringing NBC's
late night talk show flagship back to Manhattan after an absence
of more than 40 years, being welcomed on set by a host of top
stars, including Robert De Niro, Mike Tyson and Lady Gaga.
The surprise appearances, which also included Tina Fey, Joan
Rivers, former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Sarah Jessica
Parker, Joe Namath and Steve Colbert, were among highlights of
Fallon's "Tonight Show" debut, following the departure this
month of long-serving host Jay Leno.
The slew of unannounced walk-ons followed Fallon's remark
that someone owed him $100 after betting he would never host the
"Tonight Show," at which point De Niro, then others strode on
stage one after another, each plunking bills onto his desk until
finally Colbert doused him with a bucket of pennies.
Actor Will Smith and Irish band U2 were the Brooklyn-born
Fallon's first official, previously announced guests as the
former "Saturday Night Live" comic launched the show's widely
anticipated return to Manhattan's Rockefeller Center.
Fallon's stepping into one of the most visible roles in
television marked NBC's second attempt to imbue the competitive
late-night landscape on U.S. television with a more youthful
vibe by appealing to the coveted 18-to-34 year-old demographic.
"I'm Jimmy Fallon and I'll be your host -- for now," Fallon
told the audience in the new multi-million dollar studio where
such beloved "Tonight" veterans Johnny Carson and Jack Paar once
It was one of a handful of references to the show's recent
troubled history. Leno was initially replaced by Conan O'Brien
in 2009, but he returned months later in a public relations
debacle for the network.
He also paid tribute to the show's previous hosts by name,
being sure to mention Leno twice -- once before, and once after,
"If you guys let me stick around long enough, maybe I'll get
the hang of it," joked Fallon, who wore an understated gray
suit, white shirt and blue tie for his first show.
NEW YORK SETTING EMBRACED
From the outset, the New York "Tonight Show" boldly embraced
its new home.
Brooklyn-raised director Spike Lee shot a new opening, a
stirring series of black-and-white night shots that gave way to
colorful depictions of such iconic locations as Radio City Music
Hall, Grand Central Terminal and Rockefeller Center.
The new set, with a dramatic Manhattan skyline backdrop,
befit its Rockefeller Center location.
And when it came time for U2 to perform its new single,
"Invisible," the band took to 30 Rock's rooftop at sunset.
Scores of fans rocked to the beat with such New York
landmarks as the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building
and Times Square providing a glittering backdrop. Even Mother
Nature cooperated, with crystal clear skies and a burnished
sunset over New Jersey on a cold, winter dusk.
But in other ways, Fallon's "Tonight Show" hewed to
tradition. An opening monologue featured topical issues --
chiefly the Olympics, which also happen to be airing on NBC --
and a chat with Smith touched on the actor's recent adventures
skydiving, and more on the Olympics.
"I think I could win a gold medal in the things with the
broom," Smith laughed, referring to the curling competition.
When the four members of U2 joined Fallon for a chat after
their rousing al fresco performance, Fallon, 39, asked "Was that
the highest you've ever been?"
Earlier, Fallon introduced what seemed likely to become a
regular feature, "Tonight Show Superlatives," in which photos --
in this case, again, Olympic athletes -- were paired with "most
likely to," high school yearbook-style captions.
The "Tonight Show" first aired on NBC in 1954 from New York
with host Steve Allen. Paar hosted the show from 1957 until
Carson took over in 1962, and reigned for 30 years, before
departing in 1992. Carson moved the show to southern California
In its final Burbank days, the "Tonight Show" drew about 3.9
million viewers per episode.
First Lady Michelle Obama is among the guests scheduled for
this week, along with Bradley Cooper and Justin Timberlake.
Jerry Seinfeld, Kristen Wiig and Lady Gaga will appear on
(Reporting by Chris Michaud, Editing by Clarence Fernandez)