Last week, Jay Leno suggested that the reason Jimmy Kimmel is behind in the late-night ratings is because he’s “too mean”, and it’s true that Kimmel does not even come close to The Tonight Show in number of viewers. Nevertheless, Jimmy and Jimmy’s relationship has been nothing but amicable.
However, with Stephen Colbert taking over The Late Show, and threatening Kimmel’s ratings even more, and criticism starting to mount against the kind of piffling celebrity games and karaoke that dominate The Tonight Show, you have to wonder if Kimmel has decided to take a stand against the facile celebrity games and differentiate himself from The Tonight Show by taking a not-too-subtle shot at Jimmy Fallon (that still leaves open the possibility of plausible denial).
In this clip from last night’s show, Kimmel tries to convince Bob Odenkirk to play Heatherball, which is just like Tetherball, only the ball has Heather Graham’s face on it. It’s intentionally absurd, and Odenkirk refuses to play, going so far as calling his publicist to get out of it.
Don’t tell me that’s not a sly dig at The Tonight Show. Kimmel knows exactly what he’s doing. After all, his mentor, David Letterman, played right into the Late Night Wars, and maybe Kimmel is simply trying to create one. By manufacturing a rivalry with Fallon, maybe Kimmel can take a little of the attention away from Colbert’s arrival, so that Kimmel doesn’t go ignored in the Colbert vs. Fallon ratings battle set to take place this fall.