On Monday night, Seth Meyers made an appearance on the show he'll soon inherit, Late Night, with current host and Saturday Night Live alum Jimmy Fallon to celebrate in front of the world that SNL is taking over the late night scene. With Leno's departure from The Tonight Show and Fallon's ascension, the changing of the guard will finally be complete, and a new era in late night television will begin.
Or at least NBC would like you to believe so. In reality, Meyers is just more of the same, and his inclusion in the late night talk show arena will simply bring more of the monotonous flavor which has defined the format for years.
To be clear, Meyers is a great choice to take the reins from Fallon; he shares many similarities with Fallon in both style and background. As a 12-year veteran of SNL with eight of those years spent as head writer, Meyers knows how to appeal to the late night audience. Meyers has great comedic timing and vision, winning an Emmy and garnering several Emmy nominations for his work as a writer, and like Fallon, he has anchored the Weekend Update desk to great acclaim. His run on SNL overlapped Fallon's and they are also close in age. Furthermore, both have worked under the tutelage of Lorne Michaels, and with The Tonight Show moving to New York, Michaels will serve as executive producer for all three gems in NBC's late night crown. Essentially, in choosing Meyers as the new Late Night host, NBC has decided to play it safe and maintain the status quo. Leno's departure signals the end of an era and seemingly implies that the tone of late night comedy will reflect a more youthful America, but Fallon and Meyers, both nearly 40, are still reflective of an older demographic of viewers.
If NBC were truly interested in revamping their late night schedule, and indeed the landscape of late night comedy, then they would have done well to truly shake things up and go with a choice that was outside of the box. Instead of simply courting the image of diversity by featuring The Roots as Fallon's house band (which may simply be a reflection of Fallon's musical tastes, but ultimately amounts to nothing but a cosmetic diversity), why not back a black comedian as the next host of Late Night? A black comedian such as Kevin Hart, or the duo Key and Peele, might have been a controversial, but wise choice that would not only connect them with a younger viewing demographic, but also draw a larger multicultural audience to its late night talk shows. These comedians are still relatively young, intelligent, insightful, and more than capable of delivering on the type of laughs expected by the late night audience. More importantly, they would be reflective of a diverse and modern America that is capable of embracing its cultural differences.
History suggests, however, that black talk show hosts, with exceptions such as Arsenio Hall and Chris Rock, don't last very long in this capacity, and NBC might understandably be interested in selecting a host that would be around for the long haul with as little upkeep as possible. In that case, then, why not choose a woman to be the new face of Late Night? For example, SNL alumna Tina Fey and Amy Poehler possess many of the same qualities that Meyers and Fallon have, along with equally-impressive backgrounds. Furthermore, both have gone on to helm some of NBC's most beloved shows, and as women, both are capable of injecting a much-needed feminine perspective into the late night mix. What then, keeps NBC from seriously considering a candidate of their caliber?
The fact that NBC has chosen Seth Meyers ultimately underscores their desire to preserve the stability of their lineup and their aversion to major changes in the wake of the Conan O'Brien succession fiasco a few years back. NBC has no desire to relive the events of that situation, and Seth Meyers, who is in a sense a carbon copy of Fallon, isn't likely to ruffle any feathers as he assumes a position that is already familiar to him. While we can all look forward with anticipation towards the new era of SNL-like hijinks and segments permeating NBC's late night lineup, we might also do well to take a moment of silence to ponder the possibilities for groundbreaking late-night entertainment that must now wait for another chance to become reality.