Five thoughts on Seth Meyers’ ‘Late Night' debut

02/26/2014 10:04 AM

02/26/2014 10:05 AM

NBC’s “Late Night With Seth Meyers” premiered recently in a fairly ho-hum transfer of power from Jimmy Fallon to Meyers, another “Saturday Night Live” alumnus.

“If everyone could stick around, I’d love to do five hours of notes,” Meyers joked as his first episode signed off. Well, here are some notes, thoughts and instant criticisms:

“Weekend Upright”: Meyers’s nightly monologue style will apparently just be his “Weekend Update” routine, only delivered while standing up. With his toothsome grin nervously plastered on his face (unchanged the entire hour), Meyers’ joke topics had a day-old doughnut stiffness: the Sochi Olympics, Rob Ford, Arizona’s possible new law letting businesses deny gay customers. For generations of “SNL” watchers, “Weekend Update” apes that loud barkiness of TV anchors of yore. But does that delivery set the right tone for a late-night show?

12:35 is the new 11:35: Though Meyers and Vice President Joe Biden had little to talk about except the daffy supremeness of the show’s other guest (Meyers’ friend and colleague Amy Poehler), it’s clear “Late Night” is a far saner arena for a conversation. On “The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon,” a guest will just get a reverential tongue bath for a couple of minutes and then be dragged off to play Scattergories or perform a song parody or who knows what. It seems Meyers, whether he wants to or not, will have to play the big boy when it comes to guests who possess an attention span.

Fred Armisen and the 8G Band: Not a bad idea, throwing together a garage band made up of indie/punkie veterans from a couple decades back. Banter with bandleader Armisen (or a kind of Fred-based character, again a la “Weekend Update”) lends a surreal quality to the proceedings. But is it loud enough? Edgy enough? Or is this a Brooklynized notion of elevator music?

The set: Looks like somebody hit a big sale on rice-paper partitions. I do like Meyers’ small, mid-century-style desk, which looks like a desk at which someone could actually sit and get a lot of writing done. Good thing, because ...

Funny or die: Meyers was the head writer at “SNL” for a long time. He and his staff should have known that their Venn diagram and “Costas Vision” bits needed a whole lot more work and that neither bit was a great way to demonstrate to “Late Night” viewers how they intend to fill the show’s first quarter hour.

It seemed like a long wait just to get Poehler to come out and gab for a few minutes. In the 1980s, “Late Night” thrived on David Letterman’s weirdness and devil-may-care approach to being on television, which hit a sweet spot with college students in a pre-Internet era. That approach evolved and thrived under Conan O’Brien’s stewardship, and it morphed into a playful and inventive spree under Jimmy Fallon.

“Late Night With Seth Meyers” will need several weeks before it lands on its own brand of strangeness and attitude, if viewers will wait around that long. On its first night, the show was far too bland and, more disappointingly, seemed built from spare parts.

Washington Post

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