Ken Tucker
March 04, 2009 AT 07:43 PM EST

Jimmy Fallon’s second night featured an opening monologue so half-hearted (cold-weather/economy topical joke: “It’s brutal out there; the Dow is 30 below zero”), it looked as though Fallon couldn’t wait to bring out his special guest, his former Saturday Night Live “Weekend Update” co-anchor, Tina Fey. Fey was, as always, enthusiastic, smart, and funny.

Fallon’s Late Night is giving new meaning, a new intensity, to the term “good sport”: his next guest, Jon Bon Jovi, not only maintained a polite, fixed grin as a plucky audience-member did a karaoke version of “Wanted Dead or Alive” — Bon Jovi also joined in singing along  with the young woman. Similarly, at the end of a deadly segment about a desk chair Jimmy was rejecting, Fey stared with a sedate smile as the bit ended… with no discernible punchline. She seemed as baffled as the rest of us, but maintained a hopeful gaze at her pal.

Fallon is trying out various bits to see what might stick. He showed a video of a German soccer fashion show and heckled/commented over it, in the manner of Mystery Science Theater 3000. He also had his camera operator zoom in on various people in the audience and them placed a Facebook-update frame around each face, with a comment such as ” …wearing his thong backwards.” I’ll just assume that this was Fallon’s knowing hommage to  the same routine Steve Allen used to do on The Tonight Show a half-century ago, having the camera zoom in on an audience-member while Allen spoke their “inner thoughts.”

This is the way you build a talk show: plundering from the past is a thoroughly acceptable method; so is calling in favors from friends. Pretty soon, though, you have to start coming up with your own format, your own style.

Tomorrow I’ll review not only Fallon’s Wednesday show, but also what some of the other late-night hosts are up to during Fallon’s opening week.

For now, though, I ask: will you keep watching Fallon?

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