We are so far into the future that the idea that living under a rock would prevent you from keeping up with the news is painfully naive. Is there a WiFi hotspot near the rock? Don’t you have 3G? We need a new metaphor. Something that screams “21st century!”. Wait. Wait. I think I’ve got it:
If you’ve been living on the International Space Station for these past weeks, alone but for the stars, you may be the one person who still doesn’t know that Jimmy Fallon has been named “The King of Late Night”. The King is dead, long live the king. Even if you have been floating miles above Earth, you probably can’t say you’re surprised. Jimmy Fallon has been a rising star on the late night scene for years and recently he went supernova with shrewd, calculated, hilariousness.
Before I go any further I would like to say that this article owes a lot to an article I read several months ago (when the Tonight Show was just a twinkle in Jimmy’s eye) in the New Yorker that is great. You should read that. I’ll wait. If you don’t come back, I’ll understand. Oh Good you came back. Hey again!
While Jimmy Fallon totally deserves the accolades he gets, and his consolidation of Late Night power through guile and savvy makes him about as cunning as any member of House Stark on Game of Thrones (“Sweeps week is coming”), his inevitability is what is unsettling. It’s also an opportunity.
With the quickly changing demographic make up of the United States television viewership and the increasing emphasis we’ve placed on multicultural inclusionism, the white, maleness of Late Night sticks out. Oprah and Ellen have dominated the daytime scene but there seems to be a barrier standing in the way of a show with a similar presence starting after the sun goes down. Why? I don’t have any hard data but I would imagine women and minority groups keep the same hours as white men do so the audience is there, they are just being ignored or passed over (and I’m not sure which is worse).
It seems like perhaps the problem is that in today’s marketplace of talent, white and male has been the rule for so long that getting someone not white and male seems unthinkable. That’s not the case. If your talent scouts need some inspiration, tell them to go online. Okay, I know they are probably already online but tell them to get off Facebook and head over to some of the podcasts and video series’ that have garnered large cult followings based on word of mouth and grit alone. These creative forces have been operating on shoestring budgets (or no budgets at all) and little help and still (or perhaps because of that) managed to produce compelling, edgy comedy. There are plenty of people ready to break into the big leagues that might ordinarily be overlooked.
The opportunity I spoke of earlier is this: Jimmy’s slot at Late Night is now vacant. Let’s get someone in there that’s fun, exciting, innovated but DIFFERENT. I want to be confronted with a new perspective. I want to be challenged. I think a lot of people do. Here is how far we’ve come: We elected a black president. Twice. A majority of Americans support gay marriage. 21 and Over (not a great movie, but that’s okay) had an Asian LEAD CHARACTER. Rachel Maddow is running circles around other news desks. Television should be pushing the frontier of our culture but in this case, its lagging sorely behind. I know, it’s scary for a media empire to take a plunge into (nearly) unexplored territory (Arsenio Hall paved the way, but by now the road has since fallen into disrepair), but fortune favors the bold and I’m willing to bet there is fortune to be had for the Network that gets it right first.
I would love to hear your suggestions on who you think could pull off the not-so-easy Late Night gig. Post them in the comments. Or aggressively shout them at your computer screen.