2014 in Review: Jimmy Fallon

No one came out of the Late Night Wars better than Jimmy Fallon. He’s had a heck of a year – with The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon routinely beating its competition in both total viewers and the critical 18-49’s. Entertainment Weekly named Fallon Entertainer of the Year and it was well deserved. He has single-handedly made Late Night TV relevant again, paving a smooth path for Stephen Colbert to take over for Letterman in 2015.

Before Fallon’s move to The Tonight Show, I was one of the many people who just didn’t watch late night talk shows anymore. I knew that the Internet would check them out and give me a clip if something was interesting enough – which it almost never was. I found neither Jay Leno nor David Letterman to be relevant or funny. I’d catch the occasional interview when it was a big enough train wreck but otherwise, TV programming ended at the start of the 11 o’clock news.

I set my DVR to record Fallon’s first week out of curiosity more than anything. I was not disappointed. The show is just plain fun. As a modern host, Fallon learned from his time at Late Night just how valuable a viral video can be. The Tonight Show YouTube page is a treasure trove of silly tv – skits, games, the occasional interview. The only thing that comes close to his great TV ratings (he’s weekly beating the ratings of Letterman and Kimmel -combined) are his YouTube views. The 25 most popular Tonight Show videos have combined for more than a half billion views. Pretty impressive for an 11-month old show.

Fallon was the best thing to happen to NBC this year (I’m looking at you, fall comedy lineup). He was also one of the best things to happen to my DVR this year. Because, let’s face it: having a 3-year-old means that I can’t always stay up until 11:35pm. I need something without dead people or sex to watch in the background between episodes of Thomas and Pocoyo. Fallon succeeds because he doesn’t take himself seriously and he gets his guests off of the couch. That couch, once the primary staple of late night TV, is nowhere to be found in my favorite Tonight Show clips of the year.

Lip Sync Battle with Emma Stone

The most epic fake singing you will ever see.

The Evolution of Hip Hop Dancing

The keys to a great Fallon bit are a guest who is committed and the high likelihood of the host (and probably the guest) embarrassing himself.

Box of Lies with Jennifer Lawrence

A committed celebrity? Check. While the embarrassment factor is low for the reoccurring game “Box of Lies,” it’s a great chance for the audience to feel like they’re hanging out with their favorite celebrities.

Face Balls with Julia Roberts

Fallon books the biggest celebrities (Barbra Streisand, Brad Pitt, Bette Midler). Those pop culture deities succeed the most when they’re willing to bring themselves back down to earth. Case in point: Julia Roberts getting balls thrown at her face.

There are plenty of others – and repeats of the same bit with different guests are often even funnier the second time around. It all seems like effortless fun, which is the whole point. A crew of over 100 people pulls off one of the biggest tricks in show business: every night Jimmy Fallon and his friends sit down, chat for a minute and then play a few games in your living room. It is both intimate and intricately produced. But most of all, it’s funny.