Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A Stiff and Iffy Start for Seth (Ava and C.I.)

As Isaiah's The World Today Just Nuts "Old Man Seth" notes, it was not pretty last night on Late Night. Jimmy Fallon left to host The Tonight Show leaving Seth to become the fourth host of Late Night (David Letterman was the first, Conan O'Brien the second and then Jimmy).

Meyers has no real experience hosting a talk show but he did do some guest co-hosting on Live! With Kelly (now LIVE with Kelly and Michael, Kelly Rippa and Brad Paisley are two of Seth's guests on Wednesday night's show).  Tonight was not only his chance to connect with guests but also to connect with audiences.

As Dennis Miller had to learn the hard way, and Seth still hasn't, Weekend Update doesn't transfer -- not even when, as Seth did, you perform it standing up.

Attempting to do it outside of Saturday Night Live may get a few laughs but it mainly leaves you looking as if your calling out Bingo numbers.

It's a wonderful skit.

On Saturday Night Live.

It's a faux TV newscast.

Some will argue, "Jon Stewart does it!"

No, he doesn't.   First, he brings more energy to his opening and, most important, he involves the audience. He gets worked up, he shouts and screams, he plays with and off the audience.

What Jon does on The Daily Show is very, very different from Weekend Update -- a format that merely tosses a number of jokes into the air and hopes some result in chuckles.

It's especially surprising that Seth didn't grasp the problems since not only did Denis Miller struggle and fail trying to redo the skit on his own talk shows but Jimmy Fallon was smart enough not to make it his anchor when he went to Late Night.  And Jimmy was actually talented on Weekend Update and got the job because he was talented.

Seth whined and whined until Lorne Michaels finally slid the writer into the post.  He co-hosted the weekly skit with Amy Poehler who earned her slot and had done the skit with Horatio Sanz for a year and with Tina Fey for two years previously.  When Amy left for Parks & Recreation, who would be the new co-host?

No one.

The dull writer didn't want to share.  So he tried to deliver his jokes that frequently fell flat and, when they did, he wasn't smart enough to ad lib to make fun of the flop.  So for years and years, it was stiff Seth obviously reading a teleprompter and stopping for laughs that didn't always come.

His departure meant that, in the fall of 2013, Cecily Strong was made co-anchor of the skit.  Her presence immediately added a jolt of energy.  Maybe NBC can make her his co-host of Late Night?

Not very likely.

As Ruth pointed out last night, "women are never considered."  Ruth points out that, since 1990, CBS and NBC alone have had to fill 7 late night slots ("more if we note Carson Dailey's program") and not one has gone to a woman.

Or, as Isaiah points out in his cartoon, a woman or  man of color.

Of Seth's stiff and iffy debut last night,  Sarene Leeds (Rolling Stone) observes:

The monologue was little more than an "Update" rehash, populated by way-too-long pauses between jokes. It seemed no one had given Meyers the memo that he didn't need that extra beat for audiences to acknowledge the corresponding image in the corner of their screens – because they didn't exist! The comedic bits that preceded his guest interviews fell a little flat (I still don't get how a Venn diagram works), and the entire set looked like it was furnished by Ikea – was it me, or did Meyers' tiny desk make him look like he was doing a webcast out of his dorm room?

There were lots of things that didn’t work until that point, or perhaps worked a little bit the first time but not the fourth time. The monologue was a lot like a “Weekend Update,” which probably made sense on paper — remind people why they love Seth Meyers — but Meyers’ delivery was stiff. Seven or eight jokes in, he acknowledged what he called the first bomb in his new job, but in fact, the audience reaction to a few earlier jokes had already seemed forced.

His monologue wasn't his only problem.

Kevin Fallon (Daily Beast) points out another huge failure with the show:

 His attempts at bits (every late night show must have bits, after all) stemmed from clever ideas, particularly one where sports like basketball and wrestling were narrated using figure skating's soft-spoken, muted color commentators. But all of the bits suffered from one fatal flaw, and it's a bad one. They all garnered, several jokes in, a "Oh, this segment is still going…" reaction—proof that they lacked the pizzazz and fun of those brilliant Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel bits that so frequently go viral. 

Kevin Fallon also notes that Amy Poehler more or less hijacked the second half of the show (someone had to) and out did host Seth. Trina wondered, "How could Jimmy Fallon slide into The Tonight Show last week and have it fit him like a good pair of jeans while Seth Meyers stepping into The Late Show was like a large woman trying to squeeze into a size two dress?"  Elaine compares his debut as a host to John Davidson's attempts at being a talk show host and judges Seth "beyond bland."  Rebecca offered:

did you catch the awful 'late night with seth meyers'?
who's producing the show?
gone is jimmy fallon's spark, spunk and spirit.
seth was cutting edge ... if the year was 1971.
his show was tired, his style non-existent.
the worst moment - a hard choice - may have been watching him attempt to dance as the credits rolled.
dance?  he's no ellen degeneres.

Others agree with Rebecca.  Verne Gay's Newsday critique includes:

Seth Meyers' opener was disappointing. Not massively disappointing (that would be ridiculous overstatement), but mildly so, and not for anything he did, but for what he seemed largely content to do: follow a charted path that was established deep in the last century without bringing anything particularly new or even mildly revolutionary to the format. 

Betty argues Seth Meyers has no where to go but up after Monday's lousy show:

But he's so wrong for it.
So wrong.
In looks and style, he comes off like a recurring character on "Green Acres," not like someone you'd like to spend an hour with.
Watching him fail over and over, and look so awkward, I kept wondering why they didn't give Joel McHale the job.
Joel's the actor on "Community."
He would bring the right attitude and sensibility for the show.
Seth has no attitude beyond prissy.
Okay, yeah, he's what's his name.
Don Knotts!
It's like watching Don Knotts try to host "The Tonight Show."

Yes, he was awkward.

But at least Don Knotts had star quality.  Seth lacked even that.

For Kat, Monday's debut had a key revelation: Jesus must be a Craig Ferguson fan to put someone as inept as Seth on opposite him.  She noted Seth's failure as a host speaking to guests:

First off, how do you blow an interview with Joe Biden?
You can do a straight interview because Joe's a smart man.
You can do a funny interview because Joe has a good sense of humor and isn't one of those annoying people who take themselves too seriously.
But Seth managed to make it all so meaningless.
It wasn't informative.
It wasn't entertaining.

And it only got worse.

You then had the brief bit where the musical guest came on.

We love Diana Ross.  She's an amazing performer.

She's sang on 19 number one hits on the Billboard Hot 100 -- 12 with the Supremes, 5 solo, 1 duet and "We Are The World."

If you leave number ones -- or the Billboard Hot 100 to go to dance, R & B, etc -- Diana's got even more hits.  She's immensely talented and beloved.

But on her Why Do Fools Fall In Love? album?

We can appreciate what's she's attempting to do with "Endless Love."

We can appreciate it.

But we prefer the duet she did with Lionel Richie, the number one hit.

If Diana was going to be the guest on Seth's first show, the living legend could sing anything she wanted, we grasp that.  But if she'd attempted, from all of her hits, to sing a solo version of "Endless Love"?

We would have found the music spot a waste.

Diana wasn't a guest last night.

No person of color was.

No critic seems to notice that.  The Whitest host NBC's had since Tom Synder left the air and he surrounded himself with all White guests.

But we bring Diana for a reason.

His guest was A Great Big World.

The American group is nothing to get excited about, as sales demonstrate.  In fact, some viewers could be forgiven for assuming it was Ben Folds fronting a new group.

The group performed one of their two singles -- yes, there have only been two.  No, they don't have huge album sales.  Their only album, so far, has not even gone gold.

They released two singles last year.  The first, "This Is The New Year," didn't chart in the US.  The second is "Say Something" and it made it to number four on the Hot 100 last year.

Number four.

On his opening night, Seth's musical guest is a one-hit wonder?

It gets worse.

The only reason A Great Big World made it on the charts with that song?  They re-recorded it with Christina Aguilera.  That's what made the song a hit.  They performed it with Christina at last month's American Music Awards.

Last night?

No Christina.

Seth's debut show was so damn weak that it featured a musical guest with non-existent album sales and only one chart hit -- which was last year -- a duet which was sung without the singer.

That, even more than Seth's robotic like dancing as the credits rolled, more than captured how D-list Seth's show is and how poorly he stumbled in his debut.

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