Instead of the bells and whistles that populated Jimmy Fallon’s first Tonight Show (a U2 rooftop concert, 14 celebrities stopping by to throw down $100), former Saturday Night Live head writer Seth Meyers opted for a more subdued approach to his Late Night debut. It was what I hope will be a series of astute moves as the erstwhile “Weekend Update” anchor enters his job-transition phase. Like Fallon when he first took over Late Night in 2009, Meyers needs some time to ease into the new gig. The monologue was little more than an “Update” rehash, populated by way-too-long pauses between jokes. It seemed no one had given Meyers the memo that he didn’t need that extra beat for audiences to acknowledge the corresponding image in the corner of their screens – because they didn’t exist! The comedic bits that preceded his guest interviews fell a little flat (I still don’t get how a Venn diagram works), and the entire set looked like it was furnished by Ikea – was it me, or did Meyers’ tiny desk make him look like he was doing a webcast out of his dorm room? I guess it was too much to ask for a Stefon appearance the first night on the job.
Until Meyers finds his Late Night voice though, his cold-open homage to Fallon’s “Thank You Notes” certainly worked in the interim:
Once Meyers’ SNL cohort Amy Poehler showed up as his inaugural guest things picked up. The two pals quickly slipped into their coffee-klatch repartee that had me yearning we might get a little “Really? With Seth and Amy,” but no such luck. (Another note about the set design – what’s up with the chairs? Seriously, could NBC not afford to spring for a small couch?) Still, it’s a shame Golden Globe winner Poehler doesn’t have time to squeeze a sidekick gig into her already jam-packed schedule because I’m not so sure Meyers’ second guest interview with Vice President Joe Biden would have gone as smoothly without her. The pairing of Leslie Knope with her all-time hero was one of the smartest decisions of the evening (who else would have referred to the vice president as a “gorgeous charm-monster”?), as the Parks and Rec star spiced up the more serious portion of the show by briefly sitting in Biden’s lap and trumping his non-announcement with an offhand “bombshell” of her own:
A Great Big World served as Meyers’ musical guest, performing their Number One hit “Say Something” –sans Christina Aguilera but no less elegiac. Booking the New York duo was another wise choice on Meyers’ part, as their low-key presence didn’t upstage Late Night’s own 8G Band With Fred Armisen. However, all bets are off on tonight’s episode when Kanye West shows up….
Bandleader Armisen’s presence lended yet another dose of the SNL-heavy familiarity that permeates the newest version of Late Night. No Ian Rubbish appearance as of yet, but hey, it was only the first episode, and Armisen needed the time to plug the fourth season of Portlandia. Despite their strong music-industry pedigree (members’ résumés include Les Savy Fav, Girls Against Boys and Beyoncé’s touring band), the 8G Band wasn’t given much to do other than intro/outro music this time around, but our appetites are plenty whetted already. Just watching Meyers and Poehler sweetly dancing together as Late Night’s newest house band played them out at the end of the show was enough to sell me on Armisen and Co.’s potential.