Smart move by NBC and comedy producer Lorne Michaels: They’re going to let new late night host Jimmy Fallon practice on the Web before he takes over for Conan O’Brien next year. This is the equivalent of a Broadway show opening out of town to work out the kinks, and it sounds like a great idea to us. NYT:
Mr. Fallon has been named as the replacement for Conan O’Brien when Mr. O’Brien takes over the “Tonight” show from Jay Leno next year, and Mr. Michaels, the long-time boss of NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” who also serves as executive producer of “Late Night,” told television reporters here Sunday that he wants Mr. Fallon to work out as many of the rough spots in his presentation as possible in performances on a website.
Mr. Michaels said he did not know yet which site he will use to post the shows with Mr. Fallon, but he was sure of several of the plans:
The web performances will likely begin in the fall, long before the transition from Mr. Leno for Mr. O’Brien is set to take place. The entries will not constitute anything like an entire hour-long show. “I expect that we’ll do something like five or 10 minutes,” Mr. Michaels said.
But he said they most likely will be on every night, to try to establish the rhythm of a nightly show. And he said, “I’m going to post them at 12:30 every night, so people will begin to look for Jimmy at that time.”
This one seems like all upside: NBC gets buzzy promotion, and Fallon gets a chance to figure out what he’s doing before he gets on the air and does it for real. And it also uses the economic imbalance between the Web and NBC’s broadcast businesses and uses it the network’s advantage: While we spend a lot of time talking about NBC’s digital business (both its own and its Hulu JV), the Web is a rounding error for NBC right now, and will be for quite some time. Which means NBC can use it to experiment and try out new concepts and talent at next-to-no risk. Here’s hoping they try this with other properties, too.