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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

THE SIMPSONS: Homer tries to help Bart with

(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...


'How I Met Your Mother': Wait for it ... an appreciation

Alyson Hannigan, Jason Segel and Neil Patrick Harris

(Credit: CBS / Monty Brinton)

After this day ... wait for it ... no more "wait for it" jokes here. Promise. Meanwhile, here's my appreciation of "How I Met Your Mother," ending Monday after nine seasons.

"How I Met Your Mother" series finale, WCBS/2, Monday, 8 p.m.

What it's about: That long -- very long -- weekend on Long Island finally wraps Monday night, along with one of TV's beloved comedies, ending after nine...

Read more »

'How I Met Your Mother' finale clip; Cobie Smulders on 'CBS Sunday Morning'

Actress Cobie Smulders attends the 2011 CBS Upfront

(Credit: Getty Images)

"How I Met Your Mother" ends Monday, and in anticipation of that event, look at a.) My series appreciation, below; and b.) two video clips.

First, a quick glance at the last show, and the second, of Cobie Smulders, on "CBS Sunday Morning" this weekend to talk about you-know-what. Anthony Mason does the honors here:




'The Big Bang Theory' renewed through 2017

Leonard (Johnny Galecki, left) and Sheldon (Jim Parsons,

(Credit: Warner Bros.)

"The Big Bang Theory" will be back (and back, and back): CBS just handed the series a three-year renewal notice that'll keep it on the schedule through 2017, or the hit's 10-year anniversary. 

“This multi-year deal further strengthens our network’s position for future seasons," said CBS Entertainment chief Nina Tassler in a statement. Indeed it does. "BBT" is TV's most watched comedy, and big hits like this don't roll around all that often anymore.

Bill Whitaker named '60 Minutes' correspondent, 2nd African-American in show history

Bill Whitaker of CBS News becomes only the

(Credit: CBS )

Bill Whitaker, a veteran CBS News reporter, has been named a "60 Minutes" correspondent, becoming only the second African-American correspondent in the show's history, after Ed Bradley, who died in 2006.

In a statement, Jeff Fager, "60" executive producer and chairman of CBS News said, "Bill Whitaker is one of the great veterans of CBS News. He has had a distinguished career covering just about every kind of story all over the world. Bill is a natural fit at '60 Minutes' and it’s exciting that he has agreed to join us.”

A Philadelphia native, Whitaker joined CBS in 1984, later reporting from Atlanta, and then in the network's Tokyo bureau where he covered the uprising at Tiananmen Square. He was later lead reporter on George Bush's 2000 campaign, and Mitt Romney's 2008 run. Based in Los Angeles since 1992, he has also been a frequent contributor to "Sunday Morning."

Bradley, another Philadelphia native, and a 26-year veteran of "60," was among television news' respected and honored correspondents over his long run at CBS.

 (By the way, this question may come up so just to answer: Byron Pitts, who has appeared on "60" numerous times, was not officially a "correspondent" for the show, but a contributor - the difference is considerable. There have been many "contributors" to "60" over the years, but very very few "60 Minutes" correspondents.)  

Lindsay Lohan's reality show preview: 'Lindsay' looks intriguing

Lindsay Lohan at Sundance.

(Credit: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Lindsay Lohan: "There's nothing left in having a drink for me . . ."

Oprah Winfrey: "You need to cut the [expletive] . . ."

And there you have the bookends -- telling ones -- of a two-minute sizzle reel OWN released late Tuesday of its new eight-part series, "Lindsay," which premieres Sunday night at 10. (OWN has declined to offer review copies for reasons unknown.)

PHOTOS: Lohan's best, worst looks | In court | Through the years

VIDEOS: Lohan: Rehab a 'blessing' | 'Scary Movie 5' trailer

The tease features an intermittently calm Lohan with a frazzled Lohan: "People have this image of me that it is chaos. I don't want all of the negative [expletive] that's going on, and the stress that might show through on camera . . ."

Then, of course, there's chaos: Lohan tells off dad Michael ("You weren't good for me for a long time in my life") and she gets locked out of her Manhattan apartment. (Reasons also unclear.)

Cut to the director of the series, Amy Rice, who looks balefully into the camera. "So we were supposed to start shooting at 12:30, and Lindsay was locked out of her apartment . . ."

The reel ends with an assistant to Winfrey saying Lohan wants to back out of the taping. Then, it's Oprah's turn to stare balefully into the camera: "This is exactly what everybody said was gonna happen . . ."

And so it goes. Are these 120 seconds representative of an eight-hour docuseries, filmed after Lohan was released from rehab last summer? We'll all have to find out together, which is exactly what OWN and Oprah have planned.

Bottom line: If you can judge a series by the promo - and of course you can't -  this one does look intriguing. Warning: Oprah drops an expletive at the end of the preview that may be offensive to some viewers. 

 [Meanwhile, for those readers just cynical enough to think this whole thing is a play, or ploy, to get Lindsay more employment, congratuations! You may be right. This just in from CBS: "Actress Lindsay Lohan is set to guest star on 2 BROKE GIRLS, Monday, April 14 (8:00-8:30 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. She will play Claire Guinness, a soon-to-be-bride who asks Max and Caroline to make her wedding cake. As Max and Caroline get to know her, it quickly becomes clear that Claire has trouble making decisions. "]

(App readers, watch here: Unfortunately, this content is unavailable on mobile phones.)

Jay Leno announces Arsenio Hall's second season

Jay Leno appears during the final taping of

(Credit: Matt Sayles/Invision/AP)

Jay Leno is back in late night TV! For just a couple of minutes...those specifically tonight, on "Arsenio." In a fun, unusual, relaxed (Jay owns a pair of jeans? Who knew...) appearance, he announces the second season pickup of Arsenio Hall's late night show - yes, that show that certain major news organizations don't even know exists...


CBS News' Eric Shapiro retires: A video tribute

Scott Pelley, anchor of "CBS Evening News," announced

(Credit: MCT/Carolyn Cole)

Anyone who has spent the past 30 years watching the "CBS Evening News" -- as I have -- knows this name well: Eric Shapiro, one of TV news' legendary news directors. His name has appeared on the credits for as long as I can remember, gracing broadcasts with Dan Rather, Katie Couric and Scott Pelley. As director, he is the man -- the guy who figures out everything short of editorial content every night. He is the director of the "CBS Evening News," and -- after 51 years at the network -- he retired Friday night. Steve  Hartman -- who has a perfect touch in just about everything he writes and reports about -- had another perfect touch in this farewell piece to Shapiro (who seems pretty young after a 51-year career at CBS, perhaps because he began there as a toddler? Who knows. Maybe Hartman?): 


David Letterman's 'Late Show' marquee looks back 50 years

The Ed Sullivan Theater on Broadway hosted the

(Credit: CBS / Timothy Kuratek)

David Letterman's "Late Show" marquee at West 54th Street and Broadway underwent a major renovation Thursday — for this is what the historic venue looked like exactly fifty years ago . . .

Here's what CBS is saying about this . . .

This retro look, which will feature the exact wording that was posted for “The Ed Sullivan Show” on Feb. 9, 1964, will cover the current Late Show with David Letterman marquee through the weekend in conjunction with CBS’s upcoming Beatles tribute, The Beatles: The Night That Changes America — A Grammy Salute, (Special airs Sunday night, the anniversary.) 

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