Even though escapist TV is still very much in order these days, The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon isn’t seen as much of a safe haven anymore. Host Jimmy Fallon’s famously innocuous blend of pop culture parody and giggle fests, which once made him the king of late-night TV, is failing to connect with viewers these days, leading to an ongoing decline in ratings.
As The New York Times reports, Fallon has lost “21 percent of his audience year over year since the fall season began on Sept. 25.” That trend has seen Stephen Colbert and The Late Show best Fallon for weeks at a time, though NBC has always stressed that The Tonight Show still leads in the coveted 18- to 49-year-old demographic. But the Saturday Night Live alum’s hold is also loosening in that key group, The Times indicates.
In the November sweeps period, which ended last Wednesday, Mr. Colbert cut into Mr. Fallon’s lead among younger viewers, finishing 57,000 behind him, according to Nielsen data. That’s the closest the CBS host has come to Mr. Fallon among 18- to 49-year-olds in the 27 months the two have competed head-to-head.
Over at ABC, Jimmy Kimmel has also been beefing up his ratings on Kimmel Live!, though Colbert has grown his entire audience, including nabbing younger viewers. Over the course of the last sweeps, The Late Show “averaged 3.7 million total viewers a night—a 23 percent increase from a year ago.”
These shifts aren’t due to Colbert and Kimmel inventing new versions of “Drinko” or belting out more songs onstage than Fallon. The Trump presidency, for all its idiocy and depravity, has served some talk-show hosts better than others. Colbert’s growing dominance is owed in great part to the political bent of his show, where his monologues are full of barbs about the combover in chief. Kimmel’s seized upon the same momentum, at times lambasting the GOP-led federal government over healthcare and more. Fallon, meanwhile, has stuck to joining the Stranger Things kids in spitting some verses.
The three hosts, in addition to vying for viewers in the same time slot, represent three points in the political awareness spectrum: the more radicalized (Colbert), the concerned (Kimmel), and the clueless (Fallon). And yet, Fallon isn’t so much letting people down as he is doing the job he was hired to do, so no one should have really expected any incisive commentary from him. But his cheerfulness is now dissonant for viewers, who seem to increasingly be seeking out constructive criticism rather than mashups. For now, anyway. This is only the first year of Trump’s reign, so maybe by this time in 2018, we’ll all want more of Fallon’s box of lies segments.