The surprise appearances, also made by Tina Fey, Tracy
Morgan, Mariah Carey, Lindsay Lohan, Joan Rivers, former New
York mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Sarah Jessica Parker, Joe Namath
and Stephen Colbert, were among the 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 and others strode on
stage one after another, each plunking bills onto his desk until
finally Colbert showered 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
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.
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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
"I think I could win a gold medal in the things with the broom,"
Smith laughed, referring to the curling competition. Earlier Smith
and Fallon performed a dance routine together on "The Evolution of
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 1972.
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 Tuesday.
(Editing by Clarence Fernandez)
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