by Julian Spivey
Jimmy Fallon tried to recreate a classic late night television bit on “The Tonight Show” on Tuesday, Oct. 6 and it failed pretty badly.
It seemed “The Tonight Show” wanted to have its “Johnny Carson/David Letterman” moment, when Fallon faked a hamstring injury during his monologue and tagged out, while former ‘Tonight Show’ host Jay Leno tagged in to finish the monologue.
The moment instantly brought back memories of a classic “Late Show with David Letterman” moment in 1994 when Carson, Letterman’s hero and mentor, came upon his show to a huge ovation, sat behind Letterman’s desk, soaked up the ovation and without saying a word walked off the stage. It was a moment that truly signified that Carson had passed the late night baton to Letterman, and not Leno who had been controversially tapped to replace him on NBC’s ‘Tonight Show.’ It would turn out to be Carson’s final appearance ever on television and has gone down in TV history as a classic late night television moment.
The reason why it was a great moment had to do with two things: 1) the relationship between Carson and Letterman, who would remain great friends until Carson’s death and Carson would even submit jokes for Letterman’s monologues throughout the years and get a genuine kick when Letterman performed them and 2) people generally loved and missed seeing Carson nightly.
This is where the Jimmy Fallon/Jay Leno recreation of this truly special moment fails. There’s likely a respect between Fallon and Leno, but there’s no real chemistry or likely friendship between the two and, mostly, Leno never leaves long enough to truly be missed.
In fact, Leno was on “The Tonight Show” briefly on Tuesday night just for the sole reason of reminding viewers that his new television series “Jay Leno’s Garage” premieres on CNBC on Wednesday night.
It was an obviously staged moment, where as the one in 1994 between Letterman and Carson had so much meaning and affection behind it.
All the Jimmy Fallon/Jay Leno moment on Tuesday helped to do was remind us how truly corny and unfunny Leno was doing a monologue during his long, controversial, though highly-rated tenure as host of “The Tonight Show.”