Fallon took the reins from Leno just about a year ago after having hosted NBC’s “Late Night” since 2009. He was a member of the “Saturday Night Live” cast from 1998 to 2004.
When Fallon debuted as “The Tonight Show” host, Robert Thompson, founder of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University in New York, told the Monitor that watchers were going to need to give Fallon some time.
“Late night has completely transformed since the early days of a single show dominating the time slot,” he said, pointing out how many late-night hosts are on the air. In addition, reviews of Fallon’s debut weren’t all positive.
However, Len Shyles, a communications professor at Villanova University in Philadelphia, told the Monitor at the time that Fallon’s likeability could make his new show a success.
And it has been. According to NBC, ratings for “The Tonight Show” for the fourth quarter of 2014 were the best for the show's fourth quarter in six years for viewers 18 to 49 (a much-targeted demographic) and in viewers overall. In addition, Fallon’s show which followed the Super Bowl scored the biggest ratings for the show since his debut, according to Vulture.
The Fallon incarnation of “The Tonight Show” has become well-known for its celebrity segments, including periodic lip-sync battles. A lip-sync contest during the Super Bowl episode that had Fallon, actor Will Ferrell, and actor Kevin Hart facing off currently has more than 14 million views.
Musical performances by celebrity guests have been the most popular on the “Tonight Show” YouTube channel – “Birdman” actress Emma Stone’s lip-sync battle with Fallon is currently the most-watched video on the channel with more than 41 million views, followed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt of “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For” and "Hello Ladies" actor Stephen Merchant facing off against Fallon in a lip-sync battle, which drew more than 37 million views, and “Harry Potter” actor Daniel Radcliffe rapping, which has more than 35 million views.
And now Fallon’s taking the show on the road. This week, “The Tonight Show” is being taped in Los Angeles, and Fallon kicked off the residency on Feb. 2 with a parody of the opening credits to Will Smith’s ‘90s sitcom “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.” The video currently has more than 164,000 views.