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TV That Matters: “Late Night with Seth Meyers”

By Christina MurphyCOLUMNIST

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It’s been about six months since NBC made big changes to their nighttime line-up, and gave Seth Meyers a shot at hosting “Late Night.” For those of you who have been living under a rock for the past 13 years, Seth Meyers is best known for being a cast member, “Weekend Update” anchor and head writer of “SNL.”

Meyers is replacing Jimmy Fallon, who, like Seth, made the jump from “Update” anchor to talk show host, and is now continuing up the late-night ladder of success, taking over as host of the “Tonight Show.”

“Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” had achieved major mainstream success, giving late-night talk shows a place in the viral Internet age. People are not watching late night television like they used to. Viewers who have become so overwhelmed with our “Golden Age” of television devote their free time to watching time-shifted television via Netflix, HBOgo, or DVR, rarely tuning into live television, letting shows like “Late Night” slip through the cracks.

High expectations were set for Meyers to pick up “Late Night” right where Fallon had left it. The thing is, Seth Meyers will never be Jimmy Fallon, not that this is a bad thing, they’re just different people.

The beauty of “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” was its grand, celebrity-filled segments that were easy to turn into short video clips, making the show a viral success. Grand gestures aren’t really Seth’s style. He has a more subdued and intellectual style of comedy that is less in your face and more in your head. The show is still very much in a transition period and needs to work out some kinks in it’s formatting and pacing.

They also need to realize that, more than once, Seth has worn a suit the exact same color as the curtain he stands in front of for his monologue.

From the start, the show has made it clear that it is not intended for the masses. Meyers’s audience is young, snarky and pretentious, kind of like he created “Indie Late Night.” The only problem with this is that his desired audience is not watching NBC at 12:35 a.m. on a weeknight; they’re either pretending they know what’s going on while binge watching “The Leftovers” or out drinking gin cocktails from a mason jar.

The show features the 8G Band, who is lead by “SNL” alumnus Fred Armisen and has notable members like Kimberly Thompson, Beyonce’s longtime drummer. When Armisen is not off filming “Portlandia” he plays in the band and will engage Seth in banter during his monologue.

On an average show, this is the only time you will see Seth’s legs, as he does not really move away from his desk very often. He lets the audience in on his life by delivering a small stand-up-like set, but sitting down behind his desk of course.

The stories are anecdotes about married life or living in New York and they usually follow the same theme for the entire week. From there he will go onto another segment that will typically include him behind his desk, delivering dead-pan jokes while graphics float around the left side of his head– this seems to be the element in which he is most comfortable.

My favorite segments are ones that break up the monotony of the show like “Fake or Florida,” a game show where contestants must determine which insane headlines are true news stories from Florida or completely made-up, and “Live New Yorker Cartoons,” which are reenactments of famous cartoons from the publication.

Overall, I enjoy watching the show. Seth is personable, smart and charming, but the show has a huge obstacle to overcome. Not as many people are watching live television, nor do they find it worth watching the next day. In the upcoming months we will see other networks experiencing similar host changes. My hope is that creating actual competition in the late-night television world will bring it back into the foreground of television.

“Late Night with Seth Meyers” is on NBC at 12:35 a.m. EST.

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