Most of us know timing is everything in show business, but what to make of the timing of James Corden, who brought his “Late Late Show” to London three days after a terrorist attack there, which followed another in Manchester? Two options could have presented themselves — the first, cancel these long-planned series of shows in London, and the second was to go on with them. Clearly the first was never even a consideration, if only for logistical reasons. This late night train had long since left the station, so the show had to go on, and did, beginning Tuesday from Central Hall Westminster which itself is only a few hundred feet from Westminster and Westminster Bridge, where the March 22 attack took place. (Saturday’s was at London Bridge and Borough Market which are about a mile and a half away.)
“I’m sure you now know last Saturday night this city was attacked,” Corden said at the outset of Tuesday’s show, walking across rain-slicked cobblestones outside the Hall. “I’m so sad when I think about all the times since I took this job when I open the show that I have to talk about such atrocities, trying to find the right words to say is impossible because there are none.”
“But this time, it felt incredibly close to home. All of our ‘Late Late Show’ staff were out in London having a great time and staying in a hotel about two minutes from where the attack took place.”
“Now some people might say it’s a strange time to do a variety show from this city. I couldn’t disagree more.”
He concluded, “I’m so proud to be broadcasting here from my hometown to show off its beauty, its diversity, and its stoic British determination to let nobody and nothing stand in our way. . . .
“It may be the worst weather in the world, but it’s still my favorite city.”
Then on with that show — monologue, guests (Nicole Kidman, Kit Harington), a “Carpool Karaoke” (with Ed Sheeran), and a mock musical staging of “Mary Poppins.” It was a sweet, congenial hour — pretty much like its host — and offered yet another reminder of a vital role late-night television has long played and continues to play: As both tonic and, to a small degree, antidote.