Jimmy Fallon, host of NBC’s late-night flagship “Tonight Show,” is “weathering the most tumultuous period in his tenure” on the show, The New York Times reports, adding that the former “SNL” star’s predicament is one “for which he has himself to thank, and one that raises the question of whether the multitalented but apolitical Mr. Fallon can ride out the current era of politicized, choose-your-side entertainment, when he just wants to have a good time.”
“Once the undisputed juggernaut of the late-night category, Mr. Fallon’s ‘Tonight Show,’ a celebrity-friendly cavalcade of games and gags, has seen its ratings decline in recent months.,” The Times adds. “Meanwhile, his politically pointed competitor Stephen Colbert, who hosts CBS’s ‘The Late Show,’ has closed what was once a formidable gap of nearly one million viewers.”
The report notes that Fallon “has built his brand on his all-around entertainer’s skills and down-the-middle tastes. And as Mr. Fallon is well aware, viewers haven’t seen him in quite the same light since an interview he conducted with Mr. Trump in September, which was widely criticized for its fawning, forgiving tone. In a gesture that has come to haunt the host, he concluded the segment by playfully running his fingers through Mr. Trump’s hair.” (You can watch the clip below.)
At the end of last year, The Times notes, Fallon’s show was “handily winning its 11:35 p.m. time slot with around 3.5 million viewers a night. … Not five months later, Mr. Colbert usually surpasses Mr. Fallon in overall nightly audience; in a recent week, Mr. Colbert drew more than three million viewers, while Mr. Fallon had just under 2.7 million.”
The NBC show continues to hold a narrow lead in the key 18-49 demo, but Fallon acknowledges that the Trump interview was a setback.
Commenting on detractors who have criticized the interview, Fallon said in a recent interview: “They have a right to be mad. If I let anyone down, it hurt my feelings that they didn’t like it. I got it.”
The report notes that Fallon also said: “I didn’t do it to humanize him. I almost did it to minimize him. I didn’t think that would be a compliment.”
The Times adds: “The program is still profitable and strongly supported by advertisers, so if Mr. Fallon faces any crisis, it’s an existential one: What if the broader shift to a more partisan, more openly anti-Trump late-night isn’t temporary?”
We encourage readers to click on the link to The Times near the top of this story for the rest of the in-depth examination of the late-night situation.
Here’s Fallon’s “hair mussing” moment with Trump, posted by NBC …