Late night laughs: in the odds battle between Colbert, Kimmel and Fallon
Tonight’s Show with Jimmy Fallon has been getting its best marks in over a year – suggesting things are looking up for the NBC show in a post-Trump universe.
The show is on an eight-week lead streak in the 18-49 demo, including a tie for the week starting March 15, Fallon’s best winning streak since early 2020. Welcome to the demo war.
Co-showrunners Jamie Granet-Bederman and Nedaa Sweiss told Deadline they were happy with the show’s current performance.
Jamie Granet-Bederman said: “We are happy. We’ve all worked really hard and it’s nice to see that hard work paying off. We do our best and put on good TV and if you create something that you are passionate about – and that you really love – people can see it. They can see that we are doing our best to create fun times and achieve the right energy based on what is going on in the world.
Late night laughs: in the odds battle between Colbert, Kimmel and Fallon
Tonight’s show had four difficult years in the rankings with The Late Show with Stephen Colbert dominant during Trump’s presidency to win the viewer season for four consecutive years and claim his biggest victory over Tonight’s show since 1993.
While rival networks suggest that the numbers – NBC uses same-day numbers – constitute a “rounding error in Iowa”, it is clear that Tonight’s show is going in the right direction, certainly among young viewers.
However, it’s still a far cry from the fierce ratings battle between Jay Leno and David Letterman, especially since much of the late-night viewing has shifted to digital platforms such as YouTube.
Nedaa Sweiss admits that the focus will always be on linear evaluations in the end-of-night world. “It is difficult for people not to judge late at night by [ratings] because it’s always been the tradition and it’s such a clean metric compared to digital, which is everywhere with loads of platforms, ”she told Deadline. “I think the world is just a little bigger right now and there are so many ways to reach people, so ultimately what matters to us is to put on a good show more than anything. A good show will find its way to people regardless of the platform, so all you can do is make a great show and hope people find it, whether it’s online, linear, or both.
It’s interesting to see that Jimmy Kimmel Live!, which ranks second in total viewership, consistently outperforms or equalizes The late show in the 18-49 demo, finishing third only once in the past eight weeks.
Granet-Bederman said she doesn’t look at the odds “so closely” every day. “We watch the late night content to see what types of songs everyone is doing. We are all so different and there is room for all of us, ”she added.
Fallon’s demo winning streak comes as President Joe Biden returned politics to a sense of normalcy and, ultimately, overall, creating less wild and wacky reporting than his predecessor. This obviously benefited the former SNL star, who is obviously more comfortable turning pale than getting into the weeds of Washington.
“When Trump was president he ate all the real estate he is what everyone thought and everyone was talking about and now he’s not president there is more variety and we are a show of variety so that makes sure we can do more fun stuff to be the best variety show on TV, ”Sweiss said. “We were also doing a lot of good things in November and December, when Trump was still president, which showed that we were trying to be more ambitious and try new fun things.”
There are also a few other things that have helped. Fallon is back in the studio proper and is able to bring in a small number of famous guests under Covid protocols such as Michael Strahan, who convincingly beat Fallon in a game of golf pong, and Kevin Bacon, who performed a traveling musical number with the host (below). “Having a guest in the studio is the ultimate feeling and it brings energy,” said Granet-Bederman. “Things that we took for granted three years ago, we’re excited to be able to do now.”
The show also has a limited audience for the first time in a year, which Granet-Bederman and Sweiss see as a godsend. “I love for Jimmy as a performer to have the audience there and see the immediate reaction to the jokes, the snippets and the interviews,” said Granet-Bederman.
“There’s something about having an audience that gives you answers and you can tell if something is working. When you have an audience you know if it’s working – it’s so fun to have that immediate response and you can feel that energy, ”added Sweiss. “When we were in 6A there was definitely a release that came with no audience, you don’t feel like you’re being watched. So now you have to be a little tighter and keep the audience time. It’s different from writing for a live audience – but we’ve all missed and dreamed of it. “
Certainly, while the situation with the pandemic currently looks good with the decline in Covid cases and an increasing number of vaccinations, it is difficult to plan this far in advance. Sweiss was originally scheduled to co-helm the show until early this year, after selling off a single-camera comedy Real people at ABC. However, as this project is not moving forward, she should stay, at least for now.
The end-of-the-night world has changed dramatically since the days when Leno and Letterman were essentially the only two after-hours hosts. In addition to Kimmel, which has been on ABC since 2003, there is now competition from The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, and, in a world where many watch the next day, Late Night with Seth Meyers, The Late Late Show with James Corden, A Little Late With Lilly Singh and Desus and Mero.
However, aside from the occasional pizza bickering, don’t expect late night wars to become as dark or controversial as they once were. “All late night entertainers are so different – from their performance style to the comedy style. They are actually all friends and really respect each other, ”said Granet-Bederman.
Tim Mancinelli (left) worked on The late show for 26 years – across four different hosts – so he’s seen some things.
Starting as a PA on the show hosted by Tom Synder, before going on to become an associate director and now director, he has covered Craig Kilborn, Craig Ferguson and, for the past six years, James Corden.
Although the CBS show has undergone some changes during this time, it can be said that it has been forced to undergo so many changes over the past year due to Covid-19. Starting in March without an audience, filming the prime-time Homefest special and subsequent nightly episodes in Corden’s garage to return to the studio in Television City, it was quite a challenge.
“Even last year, I feel like we recreated the series three or four times,” the pilot told Deadline.
The show returned to the studio in September, but without an audience. The team restructured the set so Corden was now seated where the audience was seated. “It’s a small scene that does big things. If you take the audience out of it now it’s a big stage and you’re trying to fill it and we didn’t want to be on a big cavernous stage, ”he said. “The crew became the audience.”
This led to increased camaraderie between the team, as evidenced by a recent show that saw his team persuade him to call Oprah Winfrey live to pitch her a business idea.
“It’s a very free training, a subject comes up and we could discuss anything. Not having an audience is so different, but now I’m covering 20 people in a room, so from my perspective it’s difficult because you only have six cameras and you’re trying to cover a chattering chatter in the room. the room with masks. and you can’t tell if people are talking then you are listening. It has been a challenge. But I think what we’re doing is really fun, I think James is having a really great time, ”he said.
One of Mancinelli’s challenges is making sure they don’t lose that sense of fun once audiences return. “We all think the public will come back. How do you keep the magic you do because when you add the audience are you going to lose that feeling that we really appreciate, the camaraderie, the real looseness, there is real freedom when you are with your team and your staff to say what you’re going to say because you know it’s not just going to come out in the world, you can try everything and remove the things that aren’t funny, ”he said.
Tonight’s Show with Jimmy Fallon, which is set in New York, brought back a limited audience last month and given the drop in Covid numbers in Los Angeles and the rise in vaccinations, coupled with the fact that American Idol drew an audience on the same ground as The late show, it’s only a matter of time for the CBS series.
“Maybe this with an audience will be even more entertaining,” Mancinelli added.