We’re entering a new era of late night TV this week with the debut of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. What are your hopes for this show, Conan O’Brien’s move to "The Tonight Show" and Jay Leno’s debut in prime time?
Entertainment Editor Gene Triplett: I just hope Jimmy Fallon has better luck as a late night talk show host than he did launching his movie career. I don't think he's nearly as sharp, sly or funny as Conan and I love it that Conan is taking over The Tonight Show. I've always been a Letterman guy and never watched Leno, so now it'll be thought to pick and choose between Dave and Conan every night. I've never been much of a fan of squeaky-voiced sappy comedy so I won't be tuning in to his prime time gig. I don't see how anyone would want to tune him in five nights a week in prime time.
Entertainment writer Brandy McDonnell: Some of the brightest moments I've seen in Fallon's career were on the "Saturday Night Live Weekend Update," and if he can build on that, without rehashing the same old schtick, he has a chance to do well. I'm really impressed with his choice of a house band: I think seeing The Roots play five nights a week on TV might be reason enough alone to tune in.
I'm hoping Conan can bring some hipness and zany energy to the staid "Tonight Show" format, but my fondest wish is for him to bring back the "Walker Texas Ranger" lever on a permanent basis.
I don't anticipate watching Leno's new show except when he has big guests on the program.
Assistant Entertainment Editor George Lang: Jimmy Fallon was the great hope from "SNL," and he even showed a certain flair for drama in "Almost Famous," in which he played a David Geffen-like business manager, and "Band of Brothers." But then he fell into some bad comedy roles and his stock sank on the big screen. He has been Lorne Michaels' choice to replace Conan for years, so as long as he's not just rehashing his old shticks from "SNL" and is given a chance to find his own tone and speed, he has a chance, but there are big shoes to fill.
Conan has been one of my favorite hosts since about one year into his talk show -- he has superb comic timing and is a great interviewer, so I'm hoping he does well. As for Leno, NBC has just guaranteed that I will never, ever, ever watch their network at 9 p.m. Central Monday through Friday, unless two Beatles rise from the dead and reunite with the live ones on Leno's solution to the network's desire for inexpensive programming.
Assistant features editor Matt Price: Jimmy Fallon was certainly funny in his "Weekend Update" days, and despite a not-so-stellar movie career, I think he’s still got a lot of talent. Meanwhile, Conan will see if his zanier brand of humor can connect with the "Tonight Show" crowd. I’m not particularly looking forward to five days a week of primetime Leno — while he has his moments, is it really worth replacing all those dramatic series? I tend to think this will be a net loss for TV viewers.
Another TV event this week is the resumption of the second season of Holly Hunter as a loose-living Oklahoma City police detective on TNT’s "Saving Grace." What do you think of that series? Is it good publicity for OklahomaCity, or damaging to its image?
Triplett: I think it's cool that Oklahoma City serves as the backdrop for a smart, gritty, adult police drama. Creator/writer/producer Nancy Miller has only the best intentions at heart, which is try to create a more sophisticated image for the city and state. She knows and loves her hometown and presents it in an intriguing, honest and affectionate way, showing its warts right along with its more appealing attributes. I think it might make a lot of viewers want to pay a visit sometime, check out Bricktown, try a Johnnie's burger, visit the Memorial, sample the unique culture it has to offer. Okie/Bible Belt stereotypes a kept to a minimum. And I find Holly Hunter's complex, flawed character fascinating and wholly sympathetic.
McDonnell: "Saving Grace" has grown on me, and I'm looking forward to seeing what the rest of the second season brings for the characters. I think the show got off to a rough start; at first, the characters and storylines seemed to draw too much on the old Oklahoma cowboy and rednecks stereotypes. But I've seen less reliance on stereotypes and more actual character development in later episodes. Plus, the show's creator, Nancy Miller, who comes from OKC, has promised that she will show more than just the stereotypes, and I take that in good faith.
I also think the show is at a definite disadvantage since it's filmed in Los Angeles for financial reason. People who live here just have to face the reality that Bricktown on the show isn't going to look like Bricktown in reality; if there was a Bricktown in every city, then one of our major attractions wouldn't be unique, would it?
But overall, I think the show is good publicity for OKC, though people might get the idea that the crime rate is higher than it is in actuality.