Jimmy Kimmel made his much-ballyhooed move to 11:35 p.m. on Tuesday night, making good on his pledge the upgrade wouldn't fundamentally change his show. Elsewhere, David Letterman wryly implied the idea we need three near-identical comedy/talk/variety programs situated opposite each other to entertain American suggests to a certain lack of imagination.
Letterman's right, of course, though the rationale for Kimmel's move has more to do with flag-planting for the future -- and Letterman and Jay Leno's almost-eligible-for-Social Security status -- than altering the current landscape.
Kimmel: The ABC host has a breezy style, and he seems to revel in spoofing pop culture, from Kim & Kanye to the latest edition of "The Bachelor." Still, it's pretty thin stuff, and the only really inspired bit for his coming-out party involved taking to the street to ask people what they thought of his new show -- the one they haven't seen yet -- and exposing just how many folks will say anything to be on TV. Hence the title: "Liewitness News."
Letterman: It wasn't Dave's best night, although his preoccupation with Al Roker's recent revelation about his gastric-bypass issues -- which not only garnered time in the monologue, but provided the theme for his Top 10 list -- was funny, albeit in a juvenile way. And Letterman benefited from booking Brian Williams, allowing the host to engage in a serious discussion about gun control, and who, if the news-anchor thing doesn't pan out, has a promising career as a permanent talkshow guest. (Best line: Williams said Roker was the first person to mess himself in the West Wing "since Nixon discovered the tapes." Hi-yo!)
Leno: "The Tonight Show" host kicked off his monologue with a litany of sports jokes, going from Notre Dame's loss in the BCS football championship game to the Lakers' struggles to the National Hockey League ending its lockout. If Kimmel has bashed Leno as a sellout, the material certainly felt like a pretty brazen pander to the male audience -- and a weird-products segment that followed wasn't much better. If Jay made mention of Kimmel after bringing out Emma Stone, sorry, I'd seen enough for the night.
And then there's Jon Stewart, he of the decade-long Emmy streak. "The Daily Show" host was fighting off a cold, but he devoted the first two segments of his show to the debate -- or lack thereof -- over gun control, and all the hypocrisy surrounding it. It was smart, pointed and yes, funny. And it made the three guys still doing some version of Johnny's show all look a little dated by comparison.
Game, set and match.
Granted, Stewart's half-hour preceded the three-way network logjam, leaving his lead-out, Stephen Colbert, to note Kimmel was moving to 11:30, but because he's now the competition, he wasn't going to mention it. Which of course, he just had.
These are talented guys, but like Letterman said, this is more white guys sitting behind a desk at 11:30 than is clearly required to tuck us into bed.
That said, goodnight, and good luck.