A couple of months ago we had the changing of the late night guard at NBC. Jimmy Fallon took over The Tonight Show from Jay Leno and Seth Meyers moved into the Late Night slot vacated by Fallon. Then last week David Letterman of CBS announced that he will be retiring from The Late Show in a year or so. This week it was announced that Steven Colbert, host of the Colbert Report on Comedy Central, will be taking Letterman's place.
As a very longtime connoisseur of late night TV and owner of this blog, I get to express my opinion of these recent developments.
I was never a Leno fan so him stepping down, or being fired, didn't bother me. I was also never a Jimmy Fallon fan so I wasn't thrilled about him taking over The Tonight Show. Then NBC made another mistake putting Seth Meyer into the Late Night chair. The late night genre may morph into something that suits their talents but they have very limited skills in the current format. I think both Jimmy F. and Seth should abandon the monologue. They can't do it and it is often painful to watch. They also can't conduct an interview. Jimmy has had several years of practice on Late Night and he still can't do it. Seth is a neophyte so maybe he'll figure it out. So, neither of NBC's late night hosts can deliver a monologue or conduct an interview. Maybe they should return to the Steve Allen format, more of a variety or skit based program. Steve didn't really do a monologue or many interviews although he could do both.
Over at CBS it appears that Craig Ferguson will be staying as host of the Late Late Show. That's fine with me. I don't know if he wanted the Letterman slot but I suspect he is better off where he is. I'm a very big Ferguson fan as is my 20 something son but I don't think his style would play as well with the restrictions of the earlier time slot. Craig, Geoff the Robot and Secretariat the fake horse seem just perfect for the later hours. He also doesn't do the standard promotion of movies and TV shows. I'm sure over the next year we will hear numerous stories about whether Craig did or did not want to replace Letterman.
I think the selection of Steven Colbert for the Late Show is genius. He has a large following with the younger viewers. He is a politically astute comedian, unlike the Jimmy's. He is a very good, curious, quick and competent interviewer. He also does the equivalent of a monologue at the start of the Colbert Report programs. On his current program Colbert plays a numskull conservative pundit. He does it very well and is very funny. He has already said that he will not host The Late Show in his current buffoon character.
As further proof that CBS made a good choice for the Letterman replacement, Rush (Blowhard) Limbaugh objected to it.
I watch Letterman, Colbert and Ferguson every day now. I predict I will still be watching Colbert when he moves to CBS followed by Ferguson.
No one ever replaced Johnny Carson and no one will ever replace David Letterman but time marches on. It will be interesting over the next few months to see who will be the band leader on the Colbert Late Show or will he even have a band. Will he have a sidekick a la Ed McMahon or more like Geoff Peterson? Will there be a prominent announcer? Will he broadcast from the Ed Sullivan Theater? Will he even stay in New York?
When Letterman leaves, we lose the last of the post-Carson generation. We move onto what I think is the fifth generation of late night hosts (Steve Allen. Jack Paar, Johnny Carson, Leno/Letterman, all the current hosts). It's a tougher more fragmented landscape now. Johnny was pretty much the only game in town after the late news. He drew more viewers than recent top prime time shows do. Now we have a couple of Jimmy's, Conan, Arsenio, Chelsea, Jon and others. There are also about 3 million cable/internet channels.
Will the old late night format survive, should it survive? I like a few minutes of topical jokes followed by interesting interviews. A great band helps too. I am also several hundreds years old so my preferences don't matter.
I'll miss David Letterman but I'm glad Steven Colbert will be taking over. I already watch his show and will be interested to see what he is like outside of his right wing wacko fake personality. What changes will he bring to the table? I hope he figures out a way to continue to ridicule Fox News.
The Late Show changing of the guard won't happen for another year nor will the Colbert Report be disappearing for several months. I'm ready when it does kick in, are you?