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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: 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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Will Dave Chappelle return to TV?

Dave Chappelle dropped by the ?Late Show? on

"Why did Dave Chappelle leave?"

Aren't you sick of that question, too? (Chappelle is, I would imagine.) It's one of those evergreen queries permanently embedded in the Internet hivemind -- and if you don't believe me, type in "why did Dave ..." and let Google complete the question for you.

It's obnoxious, tiresome, a reflection on our world's fixation on the trivial and the over-and-done-with....

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NBC telecast of 'World Music Awards' postponed (but why...?)

Singer Mariah Carey was born in Huntington and

(Credit: Getty Images, BET / Michael Buckner)

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...

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Peyton Manning on 'Late Show'

Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning talks to the

(Credit: AP)

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.

 

FX's 'Louie' returns Monday: A review

Louis C.K. and "Louie" are back after 19

(Credit: HBO / Kevin Mazur)

"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,"...

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Stephen Colbert on 'Late Show'; First look

David Letterman, left, with Stephen Colbert of "The

(Credit: AP / Worldwide Pants Inc.)

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 does 'not envy whoever' replaces Letterman

Stephen Colbert, left, host of the "Colbert Report"

(Credit: AP / John Paul Filo)

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 . . ." 

Stephen Colbert to succeed David Letterman as 'Late Show' host

Stephen Colbert, host of "The Colbert Report" on

(Credit: AP / Comedy Central, Martin Crook)

 

Stephen Colbert, host of Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report," was named Thursday to replace David Letterman as host of CBS' "Late Show." Colbert will remain at Comedy Central for eight more months and take over "Late Show" sometime in 2015.

In a move that even CBS acknowledged came together with lightning speed, the network said it and Colbert had agreed to a five-year deal, and that negotiations had begun only after Letterman had announced his retirement last Thursday. Colbert also affirmed he would not play his "Colbert Report" character as host of "Late Show." "I won't be doing the new show in character, so we'll all get to find out how much of him was me. I'm looking forward to it," Colbert said in a statement.

And he added: "Simply being a guest on David Letterman's show has been a highlight of my career. I never dreamed that I would follow in his footsteps, though everyone in late night follows Dave's lead."

In his own statement, Letterman said, "Stephen has always been a real friend to me. I'm very excited for him, and I'm flattered that CBS chose him. I also happen to know they wanted another guy with glasses."

Colbert - who turns 50 next month, was expected -- I reported here at TV Zone over a month ago. But this quick an announcement was not. Clearly CBS wanted to get the speculation behind it and begin laying the groundwork for the transition as as soon as possible.

Of immediate concern for New Yorkers: CBS did not announce a venue, and the network long ago wanted Dave to go west. Will the same pressure be brought to bear on Colbert? Reasons for a westward move are many, but the studio space in California (at TV City) is vast...But a New York venue makes sense too. First of all, there is the Ed Sullivan Theater -- a baton hand-off from from one of the great hosts in TV history to his replacement would have immense appeal. Second, the city's energy has been a boon for "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon" -- which has simply fed off it.  Another factor in favor of NYC: If Colbert brings his staff, as he almost certainly will, a cross-country move for dozens and dozens of critical staff members is difficult. It is certainly not insurmountable: Conan O'Brien did it, after all. 

Reasons for this quick announcement -- Letterman only announced that he was ending his 32 years in late night just a week ago -- are obvious. Colbert's deal with Comedy Central -- where he will remain the next eight months -- was nearly over, and both he and CBS had made their mutual interest known. Moreover, this ends speculation -- will Tina Fey replace Dave? Neil Patrick Harris? -- all of which tends to be distracting, especially when unfounded.

CBS's upfront announcement to advertisers also falls next month- - and this question  would certainly have come.

But here's the key reason: These transitions take time -- time for the hosts to get used to the idea, time for viewers and fans. Colbert's transition is  somewhat tricky: After all, he must morph out of, to a certain degree anyway, his current persona. He must assemble a staff -- although undoubtedly he will bring his crew from Comedy Central. 

Then there are the other particulars: The aforementioned venue? Will there be a band? A sidekick? All those elements that seem set in stone -- except that they are not. 

And how will Colbert change his persona....? That is hardly a major issue. It is not even an "issue" -- but a silly distraction that the press and other observers seemed to take seriously for a time. Check out this earlier post, if you have not done so already, which has a handful of clips that demonstrate Colbert's range and facility. The Oprah Winfrey clips are good as well, for they provide some essential background of this extremely bright TV personality.

 

Colbert's character -- created during his years at "The Daily Show" before he launched his own late night series in 2005 -- is a partial representation of Fox News' Bill O'Reilly, both of whom have sparred-on occasion, not in the friendliest of terms -- over the years. As recently as Tuesday's "The O'Reilly Factor," O'Reilly said that Colbert has "damaged the country," although Thursday he seemed to step away from the jab. In a statement released to Time.com, he joked: "I hope Colbert will consider me for the Ed McMahon spot." Other conservative pundits attacked the hire, notably radio commentator Rush Limbaugh, who called it an "assault on traditional American values.

 

Meanwhile, CBS suddenly has a 12:35 problem. Craig Ferguson will almost certainly leave "Late Late Show," which means CBS's work is far from over. 

“Stephen is a multi-talented and respected host, writer, producer, satirist and comedian who blazes a trail of thought-provoking conversation, humor and innovation with everything he touches,” said CBS Entertainment chief Nina Tassler. ”He is a presence on every stage, with interests and notable accomplishments across a wide spectrum of entertainment, politics, publishing and music. We welcome Stephen to CBS with great pride and excitement, and look forward to introducing him to our network television viewers in late night.”

"Stephen Colbert is one of the most inventive and respected forces on television," said CBS chief executive Leslie Moonves in a statement. "David Letterman's legacy and accomplishments are an incredible source of pride for all of us here, and today's announcement speaks to our commitment of upholding what he established for CBS in late night."A Comedy Central spokesman said Colbert had no plans to address his new job on the air Thursday night. Meanwhile, "Late Show" was not taped Thursday.

Lindsay Lohan on 'Late Show with David Letterman': A clip

Lindsay Lohan and David Letterman give a call

(Credit: CBS / Jeffrey R. Staab)

Lindsay Lohan appeared on "Late Show With David Letterman" Wednesday night -- their full encounter aired well past deadline -- but one little surprise was announced earlier in the day: Oprah Winfrey was on the show, too.

At least her voice was -- the former talk-show legend-turned cable mogul was on the receiving end of a phone call from Lohan and Letterman.

Letterman appeared not to be keen on the idea at first. After some prodding by Lohan and an audience chanting "Op-rah! Op-rah!" Letterman called Winfrey on the actress' cellphone, identifying himself in a disguised voice as "Lindsay Lohan's secretary."

"Who is this?" Winfrey asked, and Letterman, finally using his regular voice, admitted, "It's Dave, Oprah, it's Dave." "Oh my God," Winfrey laughed. "Very good, Dave! The David Letterman who's retiring?"

Letterman asked the chief executive of OWN how Lohan -- currently in the channel's low-rated "Lindsay" docuseries -- was doing months after production on the series wrapped, and nine months after the troubled actress left rehab.

"I think she's doing really OK," a somewhat muted Winfrey responded, adding "I think, you know, to have cameras following you around for every phase of your life, and you are trying to pull your life together, I think that's a really difficult thing, so, yeah, we're really pleased that she's making some progress."

Lohan started to tear up, and Letterman then quickly changed subjects: "Oprah, I've spent 30 years trying to pull my life together. Where the hell have you been?"

Winfrey then reminded him that they both share the same "meditation teacher." To which Letterman responded: He has switched to something "that's really fantastic: Scientology."

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