Ranking Late Night’s Adaptations to Social Distancing

Quarantine has altered nearly every aspect of daily life. The abrupt change has forced all of us to change our daily habits and activities. No place is this more amplified than in media. As quarantine continues, all media sources have had to adapt to stay-at-home standards. Late-night TV hosts have been forced to film an entire show without their normal audience or crew to help. But which host is doing it best?

#4 “Late Night with Seth Meyer

Seth Meyers started his transition to quarantine TV on March 23 in an echoey hallway with bad lighting and even worse audio. Although the quarantine transition was sudden and confusing, it is still late-night TV and Meyers did not reach the bar.

In his first episode, he jumped in with a regular segment in his show called “A Closer Look”. While the script was solid and the graphics went on as they would on a normal show, the segment was hard to watch. The show tried to adapt by filming the exact way they would have if they were in a studio, and it did not transition well.

Late Night should have used this opportunity at home to film new and interesting segments. Meyers is a unique position right now; he can relate to his audience now more than ever. So why is the show trying to go on as normal in a time where there is no normal anymore? While Late Night has made strides in the past few weeks by improving the audio and lighting, the overall show still feels forced and needs to work on feeling less awkward.

#3 “Jimmy Kimmel Live!

Jimmy Kimmel shifted from set to home on March 17. He began the transition with a “mini monologue” series that went on until the 27th. The series began with an intro of his kid’s drawings of him and his daughter’s voice in the background recreating the regular music.

His mini monologues did not compare to the perfect Hollywood lights and sound, but it did feel very real. Kimmel discussed everyday issues like having his kids around all the time and trying not to go crazy in his house all while filming himself on an iPad. Kimmel even had his whole family dress up on Friday and join in on the monologue for “Formal Friday”.

The majority of this series was filmed in Kimmel’s office, and while the placement of the camera could be better and the lighting is not great, it at least was not nearly as awkward or boring as Meyers’s initial attempts. Kimmel related to much of his audience who are also living at home with small children and limited time alone.

He soon made a big change and a makeshift set was constructed in a room in his house. The lighting, audio and wardrobe have improved substantially, but the best part about his show is the involvement of his family. Kimmel continues to include his children in segments where he would have usually had guests and even had Tom Holland surprise his son for his fourth birthday. Kimmel’s transition was not perfect, but it felt more natural then Meyers’s, and the inclusion of his family was relatable.

#2 “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert

Stephen Colbert also moved from the studio to home on March 17. Colbert tried to differentiate himself by filming the first show in a full suit while sitting in a bathtub, branding it “The Lather Show with Srubbin’ Colbath”. The following shows had Colbert performing in other locations like his fireplace and porch, earning the shows names like “The Flame Show with Stephen Colburn” and “The Light Show with Stephen Colb-air”.

Finally, the show attempted to return to normal with Colbert in a corner of a room with his logo behind him on a screen. Colbert acknowledged that his family was behind the camera helping him film the show. He even included his dog in the monologue, and when the dog messed up some of the technical stuff, they decided not to cut out his attempt to fix it.

Overall Colbert’s transition went as smoothly as possible, and we should applaud his efforts. Before a makeshift “set” could be made in his house, the show went on and still felt natural. This is because Colbert acknowledged that he was attempting to figure out his day job the same way many Americans were attempting to figure out their own. In the process, he didn’t look stiff or forced, and instead he jumped fully into showing the world his homelife. While most late-night shows took a break or failed at filming by themselves, Colbert took the challenge in stride and did his best to film a great show without all the fancy equipment.

#1 “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon

Jimmy Fallon moved his show home for quarantine on the same day as Colbert and Kimmel. Fallon started off with better audio and lighting then any of the other hosts. He also used adorable “graphics” made by his six-year-old daughter. His wife was behind the camera from the beginning and her subtle laughs made the overall monologue feel more natural. Along with Winnie, his six-year-old daughter, was their golden retriever, Gary, running around in the background.

From the beginning of the transition, Fallon simply embraced all of the distractions instead of trying to avoid them. The Tonight Show has not needed many changes because Fallon has been succeeding at quarantine since the first episode. While other hosts needed a few days or weeks to get settled in, Fallon took the problem in stride. Fallon has only improved the show since then by implementing new segments including “Ask the Fallons”. This segment includes Fallon and his wife on a walk answering questions from Twitter or just his wife interviewing him.

If we had to choose one video to explain quarantine to people in the future, an episode of The Tonight Show would be the perfect choice. His show encapsulates quarantine from the monologue jokes to his daughter interrupting an episode after her tooth fell out to walks with his wife. Due to his unique blend of creativity, relatability and humor, Fallon beats out every other host in his transition to quarantine Late Night TV.

Images in collage courtesy of Us Magazine, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, The New York Times and The Hollywood Reporter

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