Seth Meyers on 'Late Night': What the Critics Are Saying

Vice President Joe Biden on "Late Night With Seth Meyers"
Vice President Joe Biden on "Late Night With Seth Meyers"
 NBC

After the historic hype and scrutiny surrounding Jay Leno's Tonight Show hand-off to Jimmy Fallon last week, the stakes were decidedly lower for Seth Meyers' Late Night debut Monday.

The initial reaction among critics to the new NBC host was warm, welcoming and patient — if not exactly ecstatic.

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Read a sampling of what top critics are saying below:

The Hollywood Reporter's Tim Goodman said Meyers is lucky to have the least stressful job in late-night television, given the doubts and travails faced by the hosts who have preceded him in the role.

"On Monday night, Meyers had that grand buffer of low expectations to play with. His monologue was staccato and hit and miss — sounding more like his "Weekend Update" bits rather than a real monologue. And his first attempt at a recurring bit — 'Venn Diagrams' was overly clinical and less than funny, despite some good material. He wasn't in the territory of [Conan] O'Brien's manic nervousness or even Fallon's relentless fawning on their first nights, but he was lost a bit in the spotlight as expected.

Hey, it was his first night. He's learning. Meyers and his writing staff will likely come up with a number of bits people will be quoting in the near future. It's the story of late night."

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USA Today's Robert Bianco was somewhat more effusive, saying that Meyers got the show off to a great start and already appears to be "shifting the show to suit his talents." And, contrary to Fallon's emphasis on musical skits and impressions, Meyers looks "intent on returning to the more traditional talk show virtues of monologues and interviews — which is what you might expect from a writer whose most famous performance was as the anchor on Saturday Night Live's faux newscast.

"Anyone searching for signs of nerves, or perhaps of excess adrenaline, could probably find it in the wide grin that seldom seemed to leave Meyers' face. But the expression will settle, as will the host. Time of course will tell, but Late Night once again seems to be in good hands," the critic concluded.

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Meredith Blake of the Los Angeles Times said that Meyers struck a subdued note overall, while also observing that the "new set in Studio 8G at Rockefeller Center seemed consciously understated, decorated with a small desk and a simple chair, rather than a plush couch. The night's musical guest, A Great Big World, was similarly restrained, capping off the broadcast with a performance of its down-tempo ballad 'Say Something.' "

Steve Johnson of the Chicago Tribune also gave the new host a measured reception: "The short answers are that he didn't mix it up very much at all, even making fun of his new show's old trappings: 'I'm gonna shake stuff up and open this thing with a monologue,' he said, and then delivered a passel of jokes that sounded, in their crisp, unadorned and sometimes offbeat wording, like they could have been delivered in his old gig, as Saturday Night Live 'Weekend Update' anchor."

"Meyers surely has more tricks up his sleeve. He has said he wants his writers to also be performers. But for the first Late Night With Seth Meyers hour, he delivered a sort of old-school, comfortable late-night talk show that relied, mostly, on the audience finding the host charming."

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