Jeff Labrecque
July 14, 2009 AT 04:00 AM EDT

We gave it an A-

When Jimmy Fallon took on the hosting duties of NBC’s Late Night, he found a novel way to prep for his new gig: He test-drove his show on the Internet, trumpeting his arrival with a series of webisodes late last year; long before his March premiere. Seven months later, that groundwork has made the SNL alum the reigning champ on the online late-night wars.

Fallon’s homepage includes the standard highlight clips and episodes, but a cadre of staffers reliably update the show’s blog with viral videos and inspired inanity, such as a recent collection of celebrities whose names are also sentences (Ben Folds, Norman Fell, etc.). Borrowing elements from Web mainstays like Gawker and Funny or Die, the site is bold yet inviting. Also included online: Late Night‘s surreal Hills spoof, 7th Floor West, a regular on-air feature that dramatizes the show’s behind-the-scenes politics. West is actually better suited to the Web, where every awkward silence and rolled eyeball can be savored.

It’s not all golden. The insipid Internet Personality Tests, for example, aren’t half as entertaining as they could be, and it seems as if every other Behind the Scenes video is promoting something (See Jimmy challenge Tiger Woods to Wii golf! Hear Jimmy talk up MSNBC’s Morning Joe!). Still, Fallon’s site reflects a brazen willingness to be daring — perhaps a consequence of the original low expectations for the success of his show. That won’t always be the case: Late Night has passed its time-slot competitors, ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel and CBS’ Craig Ferguson, in the ratings. Hopefully, his homepage will serve as a reminder for Fallon to keep experimenting. A-

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