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Stephen Colbert keeping 'Late Show' in New York: Critic's analysis

Stephen Colbert, right, who will be staying in

(Credit: Comedy Central)

That Stephen Colbert would choose to keep "Late Show" in New York after succeeding David Letterman as host next year was perhaps not a foregone conclusion -- crazier things have happened, after all -- but it was as close to "foregone" as the word could possibly imply.

Colbert did not agree to undertake the enormous challenge of replacing a legend by uprooting staff and friends and relocating them 3,000 miles from family, hearth and home. A move to CBS' Television City -- which of course has a world-class facility for a late night talk show and has expanded the space for "The Late Late Show" too -- would have almost certainly meant losing key personnel -- possibly even the very people who have made "The Colbert Report" such a huge success.

No: He was going to stay in New York, and he was going to stay at the Sullivan, which is possibly the single most beautiful talk show studio on all of television. (Even better: It's haunted. Did you know that? Another post, another day.)  

Nevertheless, as foregone conclusions go, this is a very happy one. Not only will Colbert extend a tradition -- honestly the only late night tradition CBS has ever really had -- but it extends the tradition in the very city where late night TV was born, and where "The Tonight Show" is already proving, along with its host, that this really is the best place on the planet to mount a late night talk show. 

Los Angeles is fine -- I love L.A. (me AND Randy Newman). But it's just ... different, and it's not the sort of "different" that works well with a personality and style such as Colbert's: arch, intellectual and high velocity. His style was honed here, and here it must stay.   

Certainly this is a nice score for the city: Two hundred jobs will be saved, and while CBS did not specify how many of Dave's "Late Show" veterans will migrate over to Steven's "Late Show," the fervent hope is that many will. Dave's crew is excellent and understands the exigencies of mounting a late night show, night after night after night. Many are indispensable.   

And this is good for the New York production community overall. While average New Yorkers may have conflicted feelings about TV or movie production in New York every time they have to jump out of the way of a dolly or are nearly cold-cocked by a boom mic -- or are just sick and tired of having traffic backed up every time some chase scene for some cop procedural just has to shut down Madison Avenue between 23rd and 24th ... it's still all good. More jobs, more people in work, more everything.

Check out these very stats from the CBS news release announcing the deal with Gov. Andrew Cuomo: During calendar year 2013, applications for 181 film productions were submitted and included 124 films, 31 television programs, 25 pilots and one “relocated” television show. The impact of these projects includes: Generating a direct spend of $2.09 billion in NYS; Collecting a projected $466 million in credits; Hiring an estimated 126,301 actors and crew for the 181 projects submitted.

Looking at it all this way, "Late Show" -- which began here more than 20 years ago -- is the gift that just keeps on giving.

TV Critics Tour: Mark Harmon to appear (sporadically) in 'NCIS: New Orleans'

Scott Bakula joins the new CBS "NCIS" spinoff

(Credit: AP)

Beverly Hills -- And now, "NCIS: New Orleans." Not to be confused with "Los Angeles" or simply "NCIS" - the mother ship that itself was spawned from a long-ago CBS procedural, "JAG," and which proved that there's no such as a good and well-executed idea that can't be repeated over...and over...and ...over again.

"NCIS" doesn't get a whole lot of critical love, or Emmy love, but both are utterly...

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TV Critics Tour: Morgan Freeman may join cast of CBS' 'Madam Secretary'

Morgan Freeman and Tea Leoni speak during the

(Credit: AP / Invision / Richard Shotwell)

BEVERLY HILLS -- Morgan Freeman, one of the greats, has not really spread all that much greatness to TV in recent decades, other than his ongoing role in "Through the Wormhole" (though not as an actor, but host). So that makes his presence at a "tour" for TV programming all that much more intriguing: As is, why exactly is Morgan Freeman here? 

He's here because he's one of the executive producers, along with Barbara Hall, of CBS' new drama, "Madam Secretary," starring Tea Leoni as secretary of State. Nevertheless, why? (Lori McCreay, Morgan's production partner at Revelations Entertainment, is also an executive producer of "Madam Secretary.") 

When asked whether he might have an on-air role, he said, "not at this point" -- "at this point" being one of those pregnant phrases chock full of ambiguity and promise.

He was earlier asked whether he might at one point play the president in this ensemble cast. (Keith Carradine is currently in that role.) Evoking the Shadow's old line, said he: "One never knows, do one?"

Well, the Shadow knows. Freeman hasn't spent a lot of his career behind the scenes in a production capacity -- but he has on occasion. For example, he was an executive producer of his film "Invictus." He also starred on "Invictus."  

Freeman was asked whether he watched much TV. He paused, thought, then noted that he loved "The West Wing" -- which isn't a CBS series. He then quickly added "The Good Wife" to that short list.

Otherwise, no he doesn't -- just news.

TV Critics Tour: CBS 'Late Late Show' host could come from politics

TV personality Stephen Colbert at the 65th Annual

(Credit: Getty Images / FREDERIC J. BROWN)

Beverly Hills: All bets are off - or perhaps all bets are on - regarding the future of CBS's "Late Late Show," CBS Entertainment chief Nina Tassler told TV writers here a little while ago. The network's exploring new formats, new ideas for hosts, and possibly a whole new way of presenting something that - in basic outline - hasn't changed all that much on the broadcast networks since the era of...

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CBS fall premiere dates

CBS has announced fall premiere dates. The full  list: 

Thursday, Sept. 11

7:30-8:25 p.m. "Thursday Night Football Pre-Game Show"

8:25 p.m. "NFL Thursday Night Football" (Pittsburgh @ Baltimore) 

Sunday, Sept. 21

7-8 p.m. "60 Minutes" (47th season premiere)

8-9 p.m. "Madam Secretary" (series debut)

9-10 p.m. "The Good Wife" (6th season...

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CBS' new show trailers: 'NCIS: Nola,' 'Stalker,' more

Dylan McDermott, in CBS' new series "Stalker."

(Credit: CBS via YouTube)

Trailers for CBS' new shows -- "Scorpion," "Stalker," "NCIS: Nola," "The McCarthys", and "Madam Secretary" -- have arrived, and you can watch them here:

...

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CBS: New schedule, football...and news

Scott Bakula joins the new CBS "NCIS" spinoff

(Credit: AP)

This morning, CBS completed the annual process known as the upfronts, as the last of the four major broadcast networks to unveil a new fall lineup. The key developments here are indeed key, for CBS will have a. Football and b. A surprisingly high number of new dramas...

And let's add a c. "The Big Bang Theory" will air on Mondays starting Sept. 11 through October, then move back to Thursdays...

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Jane Pauley's first piece for CBS: A clip

Jane Pauley at the "Today" show 60th anniversary

(Credit: AP / Evan Agostini)

Jane Pauley, a CBS News newcomer, has her first piece on the network this Sunday, on "Sunday Morning." And of course, we have a first look. This one is with best-selling author and radio host extraordinaire, Mitch Albom.

 

Could Stephen Colbert 'break character' to host CBS's 'Late Show?' (oh, come on...!)

Stephen Colbert snaps a selfie during Jimmy Fallon's

(Credit: Getty Images / Theo Wargo)

I, your host of TV Zone, am tired to the point of catatonia of hearing the question asked repeatedly of one Stephen Colbert:  But can he break character to host CBS' "Late Show" when David Letterman retires next year?

I've heard this question everywhere -- maybe even in my own head when I first wrote over a month ago that Colbert was CBS' first choice to replace Dave. I heard it during a radio interview I did last week, and was even asked by a very smart host; I heard or read it in pieces in various places, or sundry "listicles," that cited Colbert as a leading candidate.

The whole subtext is simple: "Oh surely Colbert could never break character . . . he is who he is because he is who he is, and the tautology cannot be broken because . . . well, dammit, because it just can't."


BREAKING: Colbert to replace Letterman as 'Late Show' host


That's essentially the entire argument, and it's as dumb, or circular, as it looks.

Fact is, if Colbert were to replace the second greatest or the greatest late-night talk-show in this business' history, he would push this franchise into another realm where late-night TV seldom dares venture, on the assumption that viewers are "tired" or "idiots" or "really do care about what James Franco had for breakfast that morning."

Colbert shares a characteristic with Letterman -- both are deeply serious guys who treat comedy not as a series of one-liners but as part of an entire ecosystem where the bad should be punished, the corrupt called out, the inept brought to witness.

Letterman only intermittently applies his sense of outraged injustice; Colbert lives it night after night, he breathes it, or I suppose I should say he fire-breathes it.

That's right -- he's one of the "Game of Thrones" dragons; I forget which one.

This is where the "can he step out of character" business comes from. His alter-ego is a device that can be used as a battering ram -- a trick that can devastate any target in part because he is playing the blowhard who is the target.

In that regard, the question is a valid one: "The Colbert Report" has been a remarkably successful show because the host has been so consistent.

But Can He Step Out of Character?

He can be silly, absurd, and (umm) unserious.

He can do monologues -- standard or unstandard, take your pick; sketch comedy (that, too).

He can do everything you want your late-night host to do -- in part because he's already done it -- but he will also bring that added measure of social/political insight and commentary that exists nowhere on the broadcast networks at the moment.

 If you watch the clips below, you will see someone who has the instincts of a journalist, and who knows exactly where the carotid artery is located. (I long ago believed he should have won some sort of special Pulitzer for his work on Super PACs . . . but he got an Emmy instead.)

As mentioned, he's serious but he is also human, accessible. The Real Colbert never seems pompous or full of himself, but he strikes me as an eye-level kind of guy: In other words, someone who knows how to talk to people, and not talk at them.

His "Late Show" would be excellent.

Now, will this happen or are there other good candidates out there? It is in no way a foregone conclusion, but as I have noted earlier, CBS is seriously considering him (that much I do know).

There are also other extremely qualified candidates out there, including one in-house, Craig Ferguson.

It's also far too early to be handicapping this race. But the whole point of this post is to debunk once and for all the tired know-nothing canard that Colbert "can't possibly step out of character."

I suspect this post will not debunk it, but at least I tried.

To the clips!

Rhapsody in blue: 'The Simpsons' say goodbye to Letterman

Both Bart and Homer made the cut in

(Credit: Fox)

"The Simpsons" have put together a couch gag for David Letterman - already - and it's certainly worth watching, heaven knows. (I mean really: You haven't really done anything until you're the subject of a couch gag, right? Guess Dave's done something...)

 Set to "Rhapsody in Blue"...but you knew that...

 

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