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Jimmy Fallon off to an awkward, promising start in ‘Tonight Show’ debut

In this phoprovided by NBC Jimmy Fallappears during his 'The Tonight Show' debut Monday Feb. 17 2014 New York. Falldeparted

In this photo provided by NBC, Jimmy Fallon appears during his "The Tonight Show" debut on Monday, Feb. 17, 2014, in New York. Fallon departed from the network's “Late Night” on Feb. 7, 2014, after five years as host, and is now the host of “The Tonight Show,” replacing Jay Leno after 22 years. (AP Photo/NBC, Lloyd Bishop)

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Updated: February 18, 2014 1:24AM

A new era of “The Tonight Show” started like an awkward first date with a guy too eager to be there. But he eventually won you over and by the end of the night, you were charmed and ready to commit.

“I’m Jimmy Fallon; I’ll be your host — for now,” Fallon said, referencing the messy Jay Leno-Conan O’Brien-Jay Leno changing of the guard.

On the shiny stage in his classy, polished New York-centric studio — the same Studio 6B where Johnny Carson presided over the iconic show before moving it to California in 1972 — Fallon stood on his mark: a lucky four-leaf clover. He began a 10-minute monologue — more than twice as long as most of his “Late Night” openers — with a weird introduction of sorts as to how the show will work. Some of the tension was broken when Fallon’s dad gave him a good-natured heckle from the audience.

If Fallon seemed nervous, he had good reason. The 39-year-old late-night host was inheriting what’s arguably the biggest gig a comedian can land. He was clearly humbled by the significance of the moment in the history of NBC’s storied franchise, and his graciousness made him even more likeable than he already is. (He won the People’s Choice Award for Favorite Late Night Host in 2012 and 2013.)

“I just want to do the best I can and take care of this show for a while,” Fallon said earnestly. “If you guys let me stick around long enough, maybe I’ll get the hang of it.”

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