Sunday, May 26, 2024

Seth Meyers is Relaxed and Confident in his “Late Night” Premier


Seth Meyers’ debut  tonight as host of “Late Night” signals Lorne Michaels’ full takeover of NBC’s late night schedule. Michaels has Jimmy Fallon’s “Tonight” show and “Saturday Night Live.” Fallon debuted last week to great reviews and huge ratings. Now comes Meyers, straight from head writing “SNL” and doing the Weekend Update for years, along with plenty of stand up comedy.

You can’t predict a golden era, but maybe we’re starting one. The combination of Fallon and Meyers is sort of brilliant. Meyers also brings with him “SNL” key player Fred Armisen as leader of his band. On tonight’s debut, we get a glimpse of how much Armisen is value added just in a little repartee at the start of the show about Fred’s supposed new series called “Recent History.” Watch Seth playing with the idea, and then Amy Poehler pick it up later.

But the show is about Seth Meyers, who I really did hear — some 18 months ago– would be Kelly Ripa’s permanent co-host in the morning. He had no trouble playing a young Regis and engaging the audience. (Michael Strahan has done fine, too.)

Meyers is made for “Late Night.”  He’s got to be fun but he doesn’t have to go big big big like Fallon. This isn’t the Tonight show, after all. “Late Night” gives Meyers the ability to get serious sometimes, be on a smaller scale, and still get in a lot of trenchant observations. His opening guests are Poehler, whom he describes as his “best friend” or “close friend,” and you know he really means it.

Poehler is followed by Vice President Joe Biden, who came to the studio Monday night with a huge contingent of Secret Service. He and Poehler had history from his appearance on “Parks and Recreation.” Meyers, rather than get into anything heavy, played off their past. It worked pretty well. Biden proved to funny enough. The studio audience enjoyed him. The Secret Service agents never cracked a smile. The trained German Shepherd attack dog, whose named, coincidentally was Seth, slept through the whole show.

Musical guest is A Great Big World, featuring Ian Axel singing their big hit “Say Something.”

Meyers makes the most relaxed, confident debut ever as a talk show host. Fallon at least had five years of “Late Night” to prepare him for the Tonight show. Meyers just steps into it, and scores. There are some things to tweak, including a very cluttered set that contains not the most interesting furniture. There is no couch. The chairs provided for the guests look uncomfortable and, dare I say, cheap. But those things are minor. The set also has no reference to New York, although the studio does. But you can’t see it unless you’re in the studio.

I can’t wait to see how this week unfurls for “Late Night,” and how Meyers secures the show in his own image.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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