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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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Colbert comes out swinging, zinging against Amazon

Stephen Colbert at the 64th Primetime Emmy Awards

(Credit: AP)

In that strange battle between Amazon and publisher Hachette -- "strange" because no one seems to know exactly what they are battling over except it does mean Amazon is delaying shipment of Hachette books, much to their authors' entirely reasonable dismay -- Stephen Colbert has emerged as a combatant. He is a bestselling author and is affected, so that makes sense. Check out last night's diatribe,...

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Stephen Colbert suggests 'Mad Men' ending to creator Matthew Weiner

Stephen Colbert at the 64th Primetime Emmy Awards

(Credit: AP)

"Mad Men's" first half of the seventh season (got that?) ends on Sunday, and in celebration, or mourning, of the impending event, "Men" creator Matthew Weiner was on "The Colbert Report" on Tuesday night.

As expected, the segment was more about Stephen than "Men," but Weiner did offer a few closing thoughts on the series so far, while the host has an unusual suggestion of how to end the entire series. But you have to watch to the end of the clip.

CBS's Les Moonves talks CBS's Stephen Colbert

Interesting comments by CBS chief Leslie Moonves on the network's biggest move since...(oh right, since Thursday NFL)...

 Stephen Colbert...

 On Bloomberg TV's "Street Smart:" 

  ...

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John Oliver's 'Last Week Tonight' begins Sunday; a list of other 'Daily Show' refugees

John Oliver's new gig at "Last Week Tonight"

(Credit: HBO)

John Oliver's new HBO topical/comedy/interview show begins Sunday (HBO, 11) and first guest: Gen. Keith Alexander, retired as director of the National Security Agency and head of U.S. Cyber Command.

So, maybe not so funny, but topical.

"Last Week Tonight" features a host who finds himself at the head of a long conga line of talent that has left "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart"...

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Colbert on 'Late Show:' Once applied for job here; had 'Top Ten'

Who doesn't have a "Top Ten" list? Certainly not Stephen Colbert, who appeared on "Late Show with David Letterman" last night to reveal a.) He had once applied for a job here; and b.) Had even offered a "Top Ten" list as inducement. And like everyone else in the world, Colbert had trouble even getting a call-back. The curious ways of fate.

A clip featuring the next host.

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.

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