As proof that this TV business isn't all the smoke, mirrors and high-tech magic it always (convincingly) pretends to be, Stephen Colbert said at the outset of Wednesday's "Late Show" that the premiere episode from Tuesday nearly did not get on the air.
And the kicker: He was serious.
Blaming, he said, a "technical glitch," in which the edited show could not be uploaded to hard-drives that then would deliver the episode to CBS affiliates across the country, Colbert quipped: "I thought if we make it to air, this will make a pretty good story. If we don't, it will make a pretty good story at the theater camp I'll be running in Idaho."
Could this have actually happened? Well...
It would be unprecedented -- you won't be too surprised to learn that networks have backup systems in the event of catastrophic power/computer failure...
They, um, do, don't they?
Well, anyway, it WOULD have made a marvelous story! In fact, Colbert and/or CBS refused to screen the episode for the press early Tuesday night -- resulting in a certain degree of agita on the part of said press, the print part anyway, which needs an early screening to make deadlines.
No reason was given. That was believed (in my experience) to be unprecedented. (A reporter for The New York Times got into the Ed Sullivan Theater Tuesday -- CBS claims he somehow managed to get in without either CBS' or Colbert's permission; reporters however remain skeptical, because getting into that particular screening was sort of like sneaking into the White House Rose Garden. But who knows...)
But the point is -- Colbert and his team actually OVER-produced the first episode, filling up their drives (no one "tapes" anymore, by the way) with more than two hours of material, which had to squashed into a 42-minute package; as it turned out, the episode ran long -- 46 minutes.
One suspected reason Colbert and team didn't offer to prescreen for the press: Because his team knew the show would never be ready by 8 or even 9 p.m. because of the bounty of material that had to be chopped down.
Colbert described that first effort as "a little long, like a double-stuffed Oreo..."
"It took us a while to cut to time, then when we tried to send to the network, the computers kept crashing. No one in the building could give me a guarantee the show would go on the air [Tuesday]." He said techs ultimately resolved the problem. And the show went on. Meanwhile, he's right: great story.