Seth Meyers' First Late Night: How Did He Do?

Ladies and gentlemen, those APPLAUSE lights are flashing, so let's all put our hands together for Seth Meyers' first episode of Late Night! The veteran Saturday Night Live player and "Weekend Update" anchor is now officially an after-hours talk-show host, his butt firmly planted in Jimmy Fallon's old seat. What did you think of Meyers' debut? Let's break down his first show bit by bit, and rate each segment on a scale of 1 to 10. 


Cold Open: Jimmy Fallon's Thank You Notes


"Thank you, Jimmy Fallon, for taking over The Tonight Show at 11:30, so I could take over Late Night at 12:30. I promise to treat it with respect and dignity, and to only use it to do completely original comedy pieces... starting now." A cute way to pay homage to and make the transition from Late Night With Jimmy Fallon to Late Night With Seth Meyers7 out of 10


The Monologue

I liked Meyers' opening line, "I'm gonna shake stuff up and start this thing with a monologue," but his first attempt at delivering the nightly speech was a bit of a bust for me. Meyers looked stiff, the pacing felt slow, the jokes were meh—he's definitely going to need more practice in this department. 3 out of 10



Fred Armisen and the 8G Band

Sure! Musically speaking, they seem perfectly capable. Meyers and Armisen are obviously comfortable working together, and there's lots of potential for good banter between them—in fact, I'm almost a little worried that Armisen might overshadow Meyers in that regard. I totally want to check his new History Channel series, Recent History, though. 6 out of 10


New Late Night Segment: "Venn Diagrams"

A series of jokes illustrated by a somewhat animated version of the overlapping-circles graphics you probably remember from grade school, i.e. "On one side we have 'People Who Wear Fedoras,' and on the other side we have 'People Who Are Cool,' and in the middle, we have 'Indiana Jones'—that's it, he's the only one." Nothing inherently wrong with the idea, but it could use some polish. 4 out of 10


The Part Where Meyers Sat at the Desk and Told More Jokes Before His Guests Came Out

Meyers first said thank you to his wife for putting up with him while he prepared for the new gig, and it was sweet. He also told a story about how he's not enough of a man to 1.) own a dog that weighs more than seven pounds or 2.) to change a flat tire, and it was... I dunno, not that surprising, but it sounded natural and was appropriately self-deprecating. Then he did an extended "Olympics Wrap-Up" bit that felt pretty dated. Hey did you guys know that Bob Costas had pinkeye during the Olympics? 5 out of 10



Guest #1: Amy Poehler

"You know her work on Saturday Night Live and the NBC sitcom Parks and Recreation, I know her as one of my best friends." Poehler is generally amazing, and she was as charming and congratulatory as you'd expect. There were a few moments where I thought the pair's conversation came off as a little too inside-jokey, but for the most part it was pleasant, and Poehler aptly pointed out that not all of Meyers' future guests will be as easy to interview as she was (and subsequently helped him practice for that future by pretending to be a bored actress, to marginally funny effect). Oh and guess what! Poehler also announced that Comedy Central's Broad City, which she executive produces, has been renewed for a second season. 6.5 out of 10


Guest #2: Vice President of the United States Joe Biden

I got the impression that Biden's appearance was predicated on the fact that he once shared a scene with Poehler on Parks and Recreation, but I suppose that doesn't matter, he's an entertaining-enough guy, and Poehler helped facilitate his interview. Meyers gave Biden some goodnatured guff about all those photos (and .GIFs!) from the State of the Union Address; Biden talked about trains and made a solid #politicianjoke about how he'd originally planned to make a major announcement during his visit to the show:


...and then Poehler came through with the perfect punchline. 5.5 out of 10


Musical Guest: A Great Big World

Maybe Meyers should've gone with a more high-profile act for his first show? Or maybe not, I like knowing that Late Night will feature a good mix of performers; which seems implied by the fact that Kanye West is lined up to be musical guest #2. I would've appreciated a more upbeat song, though. 5 out of 10


Ummm, and that was about it! Overall, a pretty acceptable first outing. Even though he clearly has some work to do, Meyers will probably be fine. What'd YOU think?


Comments (52)
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May 02, 2014
Seth is not funny at all and this is really boring to watch. I find myself scrambling for the remote when he comes on as I can't stand to watch it.
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Apr 22, 2014
What a Lame pile of crap this show is ... i want to barf when they do the Guitar player sketches....Seth has the appeal of rotting road kill...i'll be suprised if this show lasts a few months...come on people vote with your remote
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Feb 26, 2014
What amazed me was Meyers is STILL yelling jokes at the audience, despite the more intimate setting.

Also, what's with the Stargate behind him? That was distracting as hell, is there gonna be an event horizon that looks suspiciously like a toilet flushing?

Anyway, this seems like an overall accurate representation, minus the part where you said it was "pretty acceptable" - this was like watching someone eat tapioca pudding, they didn't choke to death but you didn't get to taste anything either.
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Feb 26, 2014
I laughed a lot. Really enjoyed it. Yes, the monologue sounded like Weekend Update, but that's probably because we've been hearing him do WU for so many years. The story about the flat tire was hilarious. Amy was funny as usual. I always like when hosts have their famous friends as guests. They both seem more comfortable and it's more fun for the viewer. Seth's really quick on his feet. Once he relaxes a little he'll do even better.

As for the set, I think he's going for a "low-tech" feel. Very different from Jimmy Fallon's hashtags and already-famous band. The low-grade graphics and set give the show an "indie" feel, or something. Like those indie bands that have poor sound quality on their recordings but people love the rawness of it. Still, what Seth has is a huge improvement over Letterman's studio and set when he was host of Late Night.
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Feb 26, 2014
I will try it out and see if he gets his groove ! I only watch Craig because a least he tends to throw out the format every once in while and mixes seriousness and fun when needed
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Feb 26, 2014
I thought he did much better than anticipated.
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Feb 25, 2014
Seth was stiff, not particularly funny and sometimes he shouted a lot. With that been said, I think it was just nerves and he will improve over the next shows!
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Feb 25, 2014
The set - desk & guest seat look like they are for Children. & Get rid of That Band !!!! Fred Armpit ! ....& Come on - What the ?
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Staff
Feb 26, 2014
I disagree on Armisen—I think he could turn out to be one of the best parts of the show.

As for the furniture choices, I'm a little on the fence about them; as I said in a different reply below, I think it's interesting that Meyers seems to have gone for kind of a midcentury feel. At first I thought the guest chairs looked uncomfortable, and that it was messy/distracting to see his feet/chair base because the desk on such high legs. But maybe those more vintage-y pieces are visual cue that Meyers is trying to create a throwback atmosphere, to kind of set the tone for a "classy" interview that's a little less goofy in style than Fallon tended to be.
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Feb 27, 2014
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Feb 26, 2014
Armisen is a distraction, he's better than the host. Musically though, it wasn't compelling any more than any late night band not named The Roots.
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Feb 25, 2014
It's next to impossible to determine anything based on a talk show's first night, or even first month. Conan, Letterman, Fallon were all pretty lame until they found their grooves. It takes a while on daily/nightly shows for them to figure out what they're about. I'll check back in a month and see how he's doing.
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Feb 26, 2014
Fair enough! I definitely think both Meyers and the show will evolve over time.
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Feb 25, 2014
Jen Trolio on, "Seth Meyers' First Late Night: How Did He Do"?
Jen, you are an amazing writer and show critic! I thought your review was "My Sentiments exactly". Your deceptive breakdown of the show as well as the "one to ten point scale", couldn't have been more accurate. In short, I would simply say... "What She Said".
What you did NOT include in your critique was the SET. Now, while I understand this might not be a big deal to some, I personally thought that the set looked "CHEAP" and "OUT of PLACE". I couldn't help but to wonder if the guest felt as uncomfortable sitting in those tight, cheesy, looking chairs as they looked. The host desk looks like the first one I bought in the 80s, at a yard sale but maybe "I just don't get it" and the "plain & simple" look is hip and just works for others with greater vision than me. I JUST CANT SEE IT!
P.S.
Maybe spend some of that budget used for the graphics Seth joked about (that we saw and enjoyed for a fleeting moment), on the SET, that we have to look at and the "A List" artist and host have to endure for the entire show... I'm Juss' sayin'!
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Feb 26, 2014
Thanks for the kind words!

I absolutely hear you on the set—I also raised an eyebrow at it, but never really figured out how to mention it when I was writing this at 2am.

When Meyers first came out to do the monologue, I actually pictured those stage doors malfunctioning; the traditional curtain just seems so much easier, you know? And I do wonder if we'll see little tweaks and changes over time.

Once thing I find interesting, however, is that Meyers appears to have gone for kind of a midcentury feel with his furniture choices. On one hand I thought the guest chairs looked uncomfortable, and that it was messy or distracting to see his feet/chair base because the desk on such high legs. But on the other hand, perhaps it's a visual cue that he's trying to create a throwback atmosphere, to kind of set the tone for a "classy" interview that's a little less goofy in style than Fallon tended to be.

Here's hoping the graphics will get better, though!
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Feb 25, 2014
I thought the monologue was fine, considering it was just Weekend Update standing up and without graphics. The Venn diagrams were DOA, but I liked the bit about his inability to change a tire.

Honestly, I think Meyers has a Dick Cavett-esque show in him, and I think he'd excel at that sort of thing...once the show settles into something.
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Feb 26, 2014
Come on, that's exceptionally generous. Dick Cavett has an ease about him, he's comfortable with himself, knows his pacing, and has a well-rounded viewpoint with a lot of backgrounds to come from. Seth Meyers is twitchy and needy and feels like he's spent his whole career in an ivory tower. I know a lot of readers aren't going to know who Dick Cavett is, or know the Dick Cavett show, but that comparison is so unlikely, especially for a corporate tool like Meyers. Remember when talk show hosts used to take stands? At least Craig Ferguson admits to being a network whore.
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Feb 26, 2014
It probably is generous, and wasn't intended as a direct comparison (the 'esque' was added for that reason), more an idea where I think Meyers could take the show if he wanted/calmed down a bit.

I think it would have been actually to Meyers's benefit not to have Lorne Michaels as a producer to lower the chances/influence of landing "top" guests, turning instead to some folks who might not otherwise appear on a late night talk show. Pipe dream though it may be.

I will say his interview with West did disabuse me of some of that dream as letting West monologue for a bit, while interesting, Meyers also didn't offer much of a pushback/counterpoint/expansion. Ah well.
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Feb 26, 2014
Agreed!

Re: the "Weekend Update" feel of the monologue, while I was writing this I actually wondered if maybe the lack of graphics was what made the pacing feel weird, since he essentially used the same delivery but in a different context.

I like the *idea* of the Venn diagrams; they almost reminded me of something we'd try to do here on TV.com as a series of infographics/This vs. That-style franchise. If Late Night can find a way to make them work in a "live" setting, more power to it.

Once nice thing about the tire story was that it displayed he can tell an anecdote in a natural fashion; it was a nice contrast to more rigid punchline set-up of the monologue.

I think Meyers will be fine, and I actually look forward to seeing the show evolve (even though I'm unlikely to regularly watch it, aside from clips that make the rounds on the internet). It'll be interesting to see him interact with a wide variety of guests; I totally understand the impetus to have a buddy on for Show #1, but it'll take some time before we can get a good idea of his skills as an interviewer.
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Feb 26, 2014
Venn diagrams is an on-paper joke, it would work on a website, but having Meyers read the punchline is just all wrong, this is a visual joke and he's using it as if it were spoken humor, which it wasn't.

Also, his anecdote, while amusing, also served to turn me off to him even further, and I have a feeling it's going to turn off a lot of middle American. The guy is so soft that he can't change a tire, he can't even ask for assistance on his own, he has to let his wife do it while he holds his toy pup? It made him seem effete and pampered, just like his little dog.
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Feb 25, 2014
he did alright, but I'm still never going to watch the show just to watch it, it depends on his guests.. Conan and Craig Ferguson are the only two I'd watch no matter what. I don't really see Seth Meyers as a talk show host type comedian, I barely think it about Jimmy Fallon.. there's not wide enough of appeal for either of them, and Seth's set looked pretty cheapy made to me. I still liked him better than Letterman and Leno though
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Feb 25, 2014
Slightly better than Fallon, about on par with Letterman, much better than Leno, but a good bit worse than Conan and Craig Ferguson. Still a decent show which I'm sure will improve - oh and the set sucks, please get a new one. Or a new-new one whatever it takes. 6/10.
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Feb 26, 2014
Wow, I definitely didn't expect folks to have such strong reactions to the set! I'd rate it about the same as you did, though. I don't find any part of it particularly offensive... it's more bland to me than anything else. But to some degree, I bet it will evolve along with the show.
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Feb 25, 2014
Monologue was a little lacking. But then again a lot of them are. Rest of his comedy bits were pretty good. All in all I'd say a solid premiere.
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Feb 25, 2014
Love Jimmy Fallon & Seth Meyers!
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Feb 25, 2014
Yawh. I just don't see the draw to watch any of the late night talk shows anymore. We have so many more options in this day and age than picking which lame jokes to smile at. I may check out Dave's Top 10 or Jimmy's Thank-You Notes, then I'll pick something from the DVR. I think the format is dying from lack of interest. Which makes Joe Biden a perfect guest.
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Feb 26, 2014
It's especially difficult to regularly sit down and make time for them when you can count on the internet to surface all the best bits for you! I do still watch a lot of Colbert and Stewart, though.
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Feb 25, 2014
Same opening monologue, same desk, same chair, same format, same guests as the others (eventually), etc. No one does anything truly different. I've begun to wonder why no one has looked at BBC's Graham Norton to have all guests out at once in a party get-together format as he does. Do something to shake it up some.
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Feb 26, 2014
The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson does it differently. The set is different, the format mocks the genre, the guests generally aren't allowed to pimp their product for more than a moment, there's puppets and a pantomime horse and a TOTAL LACK OF CUE CARDS AND TELEPROMPTERS.

As for Graham Norton having multiple guests at once, that's how they did it in the old days much of the time, check out an episode of Carson where Chevy Chase is on when Siskel & Ebert are the next guests, that was awesome (and also a great example of why the over-controlled shows today can't do it anymore).
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Feb 25, 2014
"I think the format is dying from lack of interest."

It's so nice and non-arrogant of you to equate YOUR lack of interest with a general lack of interest.
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Feb 25, 2014
I'm not equating the two, but I don't think I'm the only one either.
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Feb 25, 2014
yeah it seems late night is mostly for the older crowd - younger peeps will just watch cartoon network reruns or the daily show/colbert report - both of which are funnier - and much more informatie - than any of the 1 hr late night shows.
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Feb 25, 2014
Or catch up on some show stored in the DVR.
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Feb 25, 2014
This definitely has potential and would've definitely given it higher ratings than you gave it. The cold open was pretty clever, and though Meyers read the monologue like he did Weekend Update, the monologue did not feel "Leno-esque," with hacky punch lines; he was trying for a more intelligent monologue, and I give him props for that. Still, a lot of the jokes didn't land home like they did on Update, so some reworking probably needs to be done. I felt the desk portions felt stale, though, and Seth kind of seemed aware of that. I think it would have been better if he just made commentary on it rather than going the traditional late night route. But, definitely a solid start comparatively (remember "Lick it for 10" on Fallon anyone?)
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Feb 26, 2014
That's very true that Meyers seemed aware of what was working and not working. At the very end, he made a crack along the lines of, "If everyone could stick around, I'd like to do five hours of notes," and I have a feeling he'll be heavily analyzing the tapes from the first few weeks/months of shows to pick out successes and failures. I think his years of experience as SNL's head writer will help with that process as well.

I don't remember "Lick it for 10"on Fallon, but that gives me a story idea... maybe we should round up a bunch of hosts' opening-night performances and rank them relative to one another, or look at them from a then vs. now perspective...
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Feb 26, 2014
I felt like he was that way more-so than even his predecessors, so I think he's going to put on a really good show in a couple of months, and continue to make changes as time goes on.


That would be a good idea, and maybe rank the host's performances today vs. then, seeing how much they have changed (Craig Ferguson with all of the things he has added, Fallon's (and Conan's) newfound confidence, ect.) That would be a good story.
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Feb 27, 2014
I believe even Carson was heavily criticized when his tenure began, even saying at one point "I tell you one day they will be saying the same thing, that no one will ever be able to live up to Johnny Carson." Apparently they thought he sucked in comparison to Jack Paar. Letterman of course began in the mornings so he went into late night prepared. Leno was so bad that NBC almost fired him and replaced him with Letterman (Dave rejected it, viewing it as damaged goods).

I never thought Conan's first show was anywhere near as bad as the media tried to say it was. So he was nervous! He was still hilarious! He started with a sketch involving him constantly being told "you better be as good as Letterman" over and over again with Conan brushing it off, smiling until the show's about to begin and he's cheerfully putting a noose around his neck. I would recommend checking it out.

I think Seth is doing okay enough and will continue to improve. The show feels solid enough and if we allow him the time I think it will grow into a very good show.
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Feb 25, 2014
I remember Lick it for 10! Jimmy definitely had a very shaky start! His first bit was "Slow Jamming the News" which really sold me and then he lost all of what he earned when he did Lick it for 10. His premiere left me skeptical.
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Feb 25, 2014
Completely agree that the opening monologue was stiff. but I thought the jokes were on the same level of all the other late night shows. I'd like to see his delivery feel a bit less like his weekend update reports, but who knows...maybe that's just his thing.

The Venn Diagrams were great. Reminded me of Johnny Carson's envelope bits. Really hope he sticks with it.

Gotta say...Overall, I enjoyed Meyers show way more than Fallon's. Fallon's constant gushing and fawning over his guests is getting a bit annoying. I get that he's grateful and honored for the opportunity that he's been given, but it's starting to feel sorta phony. During interviews, Meyers just seemed more comfortable, confident and genuine to me. Maybe it was because of his rapport with Amy Poehler, but I enjoyed it a lot.
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Feb 25, 2014
Yeah it was pretty rough, but I think he will get better with experience. The monologue needs a lot of work, he read off those jokes like he was doing Weekend Update.
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Feb 25, 2014
Pretty bland overall. He didn't really do anything silly or particularly funny. Nothing seemed even remotely daring or creative. That said, he also didn't do anything particularly bad and still seems like the natural fit many thought he'd be before he was even announced as the new host.

I noticed that his monologue style was almost identical to Conan's. Same type of jokes, same type of delivery.
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Feb 25, 2014
"I noticed that his monologue style was almost identical to Conan's. Same type of jokes, same type of delivery."

True. Super dry. Very biting.
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Feb 25, 2014
Broad City is funny as f**k...
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