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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.
And now this: Some viewers, probably many viewers, tuning in to NBC Wednesday night for a telecast of the "World Music Awards," taped Tuesday in Monte Carlo, instead saw a repeat of "Last Comic Standing." Reasons? Unclear. NBC's more or less official explanation is that technical difficulties beset the taping, although what those could be beggars the imagination.
As widely reported, Mariah...Read more »
One of the many reasons Letterman will be missed is this: He's late night TV's best interviewer (yes, Kimmel can be good too, but Dave's the one). He asks questions that can be difficult, or uncomfortable and still make them work, in part because he turns the inquisition either on himself, or finds a source of humor even when there is none. (Or sometimes not: The Robin Roberts interview was a full-bore exploration of medical facts and information.)
Case in point: Last night's encounter with Peyton Manning. How to ask about not just one of the worst Super Bowl's ever, but one of the most inexplicable -- because as anyone who knows anything about football, Peyton Manning, or the Denver Broncos fully realize, there have been fewer teams in the history of this sport more supremely qualified for the big game.
It was a baffling loss, and remains so. Dave, it seems to me, reflects that puzzlement exactly right.
"Louie" is back Monday, after a TV eternity -- 19 months or so during which time the star and creator, Louis C.K., apparently figured things out. To that end, we offer our review ... and this guarantee, no spoilers. Meanwhile, check out the "Late Show with David Letterman" appearance from tonight's (Thursday) show. C.K. offers a reason why there has been such a long break...
"Louie,"...Read more »
How will the once and future king of "Late Show," Stephen Colbert, appear when he arrives at this exalted place sometime in 2015? We get a hint tonight, when he appears on "Late Show with David Letterman" as . . . himself. And Himself doesn't look a whole lot different from his Alter Ego Self: Same voice, same tie, same wicked-fast wit.
Check out this clip that was just released.
Stephen Colbert -- in character of course -- last night addressed the David Letterman succession, but apparently had not heard the news: That he -- Stephen Colbert -- was the guy who was going to replace him.
"Dave has been on the air my entire adult life . . . I learned more from watching Dave than going to my classes, especially the ones I did not go to because I had stayed up until 1:30 to watch him . . . I do not envy whoever they put in that chair . . ."
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."
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!
From last night's "Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon," this nice little gift: A Top 10 list tribute to David Letterman, effectively designating the top 10 reasons why David Letterman is retiring. The first five are the best, just to give you a heads up. Plus Fallon's opening to this is both gracious ... and interesting:
"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...
You may have heard that David Letterman announced his retirement yesterday, and as any Letterman fan well knows, there's nothing like material that's generated by your own life (or in this instance, Dave's...). He taped his Thursday "Late Show" Retirement Edition yesterday at 3:30 p.m., and then promptly taped the Friday edition at around 5 (or thereabouts...). Here's a clip from tonight's show, and yes -- expect retirement jokes, good ones...Billy Crystal appears tonight as well; as has been noted, Crystal appeared on Jay Leno's last "Tonight.:"