Skip to main content

Jimmy Fallon and the new 'Tonight': What's the verdict?

By Henry Hanks, CNN
updated 5:17 PM EST, Tue February 18, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Jimmy Fallon's first night as host of "Tonight" was well-received
  • Critics have called him "easy to like" and "fresh"
  • Online, social media were filled with praise
  • Some of the episode's best moments included Will Smith and U2

(CNN) -- Jimmy Fallon left us with great memories after five years on "Late Night," but the pressure was on for his first time hosting "The Tonight Show" on Monday.

Yet at the end of the hour, we were left with a "Tonight Show" that offered both surprising moments and big laughs, although it might've included a lot more than we'll see on an average night, since it was Fallon's first show.

Will Smith was the night's guest, U2 provided some music, and house band the Roots was as sharp as ever. (As Fallon said during his opening monologue, they're "the most talented band in all the land," and he "couldn't do the show" without them.)

That alone was a set-up for a great show, but Fallon also called on celebrity friends like Tina Fey and Stephen Colbert to help him get his version of "Tonight" off to a good start.

Fallon wows with 'Tonight Show' debut

Jimmy Fallon's 'Tonight Show' debut: New show, same Jimmy

The effort paid off, as early reviews have been quite positive, with TVLine calling the show "vibrant and fresh" and USA Today saying Fallon was "easy to like."

Fallon was a hit online as well, with tweet after tweet praising his performance, even from Jay Leno fans:

If you missed the premiere or want to relive some of the best moments, here are our five favorite scenes from Fallon's first "Tonight Show."

1. Will Smith and the "Evolution of Hip-Hop Dancing"

Right away, it was clear that several of Fallon's "Late Night" staples weren't going anywhere, including his occasional "Evolution of Dancing" sketches.

Fallon's first guest, Smith, helped him during an "Evolution of Hip-Hop Dancing" sketch, with both performers wearing '90s-style overalls and gamely showing off a number of hip-hop moves like the "Running Man," "Kid N Play" and -- of course -- "the Carlton."

Smith was on fire during the whole episode. He later gave Fallon some heartwarming words of wisdom:

2. A family affair

Fallon's dad, whom he jokingly referenced in his final "Late Night" episode as being disappointed in him, showed up along with the 39-year-old comedian's mom. Seeing his parents in the audience was a sweet moment for a guy who probably only dreamed he might ever host "The Tonight Show" as a kid. It was a nice way to start the show before getting into the typical monologue jokes.

3. The parade of cameos

Moments after sitting down to his desk for the first time, Fallon made reference to a "buddy" who owed him $100 after betting he would never host "The Tonight Show."

The next thing you know, Robert De Niro (Fallon's first "Late Night" guest) showed up with a $100 bill. Then Tina Fey followed with yet another $100 bill.

And then Joe Namath, Mariah Carey, Lindsay Lohan, Tracy Morgan, Seth Rogen, Kim Kardashian, Lady Gaga, Mike Tyson and Joan Rivers (not seen on "The Tonight Show" since the Carson years, when she was banned) also showed up to slap down their Benjamins.

Finally, Stephen Colbert arrived with $100 in pennies, took a selfie and announced "Welcome to 11:30, b***h!"

It was a jaw-dropping moment to say the least, and we have to say we agree with this viewer:

4. U2 at the Top of the Rock

All of these moments show how Fallon is planning to make "The Tonight Show" his own, but none presented his perspective quite like having U2 perform on the roof of the Rockefeller Center. The band set up came even before Smith was officially brought out as the night's guest.

The sunset above the New York skyline during U2's performance looked beautiful, and it made for an original and unexpected moment.

5. U2, unplugged

Yep, U2 was so awesome on Fallon's "Tonight" that the band is taking up two moments on this list.

Fallon said that if he ever had them on the show, he'd have them perform a song stripped down, with just acoustic guitars and Bono singing.

On Monday night, U2 did just that, performing the Oscar-nominated "Ordinary Love" for the audience in a memorable, fitting end to the very first "Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon."

Fallon's 'Tonight Show': A throwback or new guard?

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT