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Farewell to Leno, Hello to Fallon

Published February 26, 2014 at 9:36 am

There are few more venerable television institutions than “The Tonight Show.” Ever since its beginnings the host has been a subject of constant media attention, sometimes as discussed and debated as a politician.

The most recent comedian to take on the mantle is former Saturday Night Live cast member Jimmy Fallon, who officially took the reins this week. More than scripted TV shows, which can always alienate old fans or seem like they’re stretching themselves by returning to the same plots time and time again, late night talk shows exist in a special place.

Will the brand endure with this new face? Several sources have their own opinion, especially since Fallon comes in the wake of the divisive Jay Leno, who famously clashed with Conan O’Brien over this slot years ago.

Alessandra Stanley of the New York Times aptly described the debut as “like a freshly licensed doctor taking over a retiring gerontologist’s practice.” Slate magazine seemed to agree, interpreting Fallon’s image being as that of a sweet, self-deprecating and, above all, young master of ceremonies.

But not everyone seems to be happy with this change, and Mary McNamara of the Los Angeles Times wrote that Fallon still has some barriers to cross before his ascension can be called a success.

“He is playful, he is joyful and he is an astute user of social media, all of which one hopes he brings to the beloved but undeniably aging franchise,” she wrote. “But only if he can get over getting over himself. Too much public self-effacement can look like arrogance in disguise.”

Entities that are working on re-branding can fall into this same trap, and should consider the greater implications of the “nice guy” approach.

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