Seth Meyers, the longest-tenured anchor at the "Weekend Update" desk on SNL has parlayed that role into becoming the next host of NBC's "Late Night" franchise.
"Late Night with Seth Meyers" is a bit of a mystery, at least to me. Meyers got to crack wise and be really, really snarky in his role at the "WU" desk, but is he going to tone that down or play it up when he's on five nights a week?
And there's the issue of celebrity guests. For the first time in television history, you have back to back, hour long chat fests in late night, both taped from the same location!* 30 Rockefeller Center is going to be like the Hubble telescope: you're going to see a lot of stars there!
(*note that when "Last Call with Carson Daly" briefly filmed in 30 Rock, it was a 30 minute show, and usually only had one guest and one musical performance, until it eventually moved to NBC Burbank)
But that brings up the problem of particulars: how is Meyers going to differentiate his show from Jimmy Fallon's? What sort of elements is he going to have that would make the differences more obvious? What about trafficking the guests that might appear on "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon" and this one? And most importantly, just how is he going to compete with the guy I voted the #1 Host from 2009/10, Craig Ferguson?
The "guest traffic" issue is not a small one at all. It seemed like NBC was trying to raise the level of "Late Night" to something closer to "The Tonight Show" over time. Back in the day, David Letterman frequently couldn't get anybody good to appear on his show. Eventually, that started changing, as the late night talking field opened when more shows started appearing. Pretty soon, most guests were turning up on most all of the shows.
But the issue now is that with Tonight and Late Night coming from the same place, a new pecking order has to be established, and it seems like the only way to do that is to have the biggest name stars talk exclusively with Jimmy (after all, The Tonight Show is the NBC's Flagship talk show) and let the ones that aren't quite so known sit with Seth. This is going to be something to examine as the weeks progress, because it could have a downgrading effect on "Late Night" which might make life a lot easier for Ferguson.
I think Seth Meyers has got an extremely difficult job to do. Nobody has any idea how the program is going to flow. What kind of interview chops does he have? Yes, Seth has demonstrated a sliver of skill during his SNL moments, but chatting it up with Stefon isn't the same thing as talking to a REAL person.
And what else is the show going to bring (or bring back) to the talk show format? Obviously, they want to really load it up with comedy, as Fred Armisen is the program's bandleader. It's clear that there's going to be more than just music coming from him. Of course, as an almost upstaging moment, Armisen is appearing on Fallon this evening, obviously to gently plug the new show.
But the question remains... What is this show really going to be like? When David Letterman founded "Late Night," there was no competition, so, in a big way, he had free reign to do anything, and he pretty much did. When Conan O'Brien took over, there still wasn't a talk show battling against him (CBS didn't start "The Late Late Show" until 1995, effectively giving Conan an almost two year head start). And Jimmy Fallon's version of Late Night slipped in under the RADAR, as a bunch of other new shows were launching around the same time, most of which are gone now. For Seth Meyers, there's not much to deflect the attention on what he'll do in this new role.
Meyers is having his old SNL cohort and Weekend Update co-anchor Amy Poehler on as his first guest. Really?!?! Well, that's easing into it, which is probably wise. And, as his second guest of the night: Vice President Joe Biden. Get it? He's #2! Can I be a writer on one of these shows? Yeah, I think so, probably.
Seth Meyers definitely has some unique issues to deal with, that no other host after 11pm Eastern has had to negotiate. It's time to see how he handles it all.