I admit I was surprised to hear that CBS chose Stephen Colbert to take over the Late Show after David Letterman’s retirement. Although very funny and an incredible interviewer, Colbert hasn’t appeared publicly out of character more than maybe a dozen times since the show premiered, which begs the question: what exactly will an hourlong network Colbert show be?
It is a bold choice for CBS and, if he’s able to bring a younger audience to late night, could prove to be a master stroke. I’ll be sorry to see the character of Stephen Colbert disappear from television, though it’s a credit to his abilities that he’s been able to last this long. It was only a few weeks ago that I wondered aloud to a friend how much longer he could keep it up.
My big question is whether or not the Late Show will maintain the tried, true, and very tired format of monologue, sketch, guest, “act 2 bit,” second guest, musical act/comedian that has been the format for decades. I hope not. It would be a waste of Colbert’s abilities as one of the greatest improv comics
of all time. I’d like to see the show maintain some of its political bent (a challenge in this environment) and use the hourlong opportunity for a single more in-depth interview and an emphasis on musical showcases, something which the Colbert Report excelled at in its later years.
Because the fact is, while I will follow Colbert to CBS and add the Late Show to my DVR queue, I won’t keep watching it unless it speaks to me in the same way that the Colbert Report has for years. I eventually had to stop watching Conan because, as much as I love him, the TBS show ended up being just more of the same.
Now the even bigger question: who will replace Colbert at 11:30 on Comedy Central? I hope they keep it a smart hour and don’t just slot in another Tosh-esque clip show or fratty sketch sitcom. I’d welcome a reincarnation of W. Kamau Bell’s Totally Biased or maybe Marc Maron can become the Charlie Rose of funny and bring WTF to late night television.
(The latter could be unlikely given Jon Stewart’s known antipathy toward Maron. Unless this could be a burying of the hatchet?)
Oh, and for those who would like to see more women or minorities in Late Night, why don’t you actually watch the ones that are on instead of letting shows like Totally Biased and Lopez Tonight fall into the cancellation heap? Also, Chelsea Handler pretty much owns E! right now. She might not be the feminist ideal for many of you, but she is absolutely crushing it. And don’t forget Arsenio Hall is back in late night too.
Given the fragmented nature of entertainment now, these syndicated and cable shows can have just as big a reach and a bigger impact than the network late night shows. Of course CBS already knows this, or else they wouldn’t have drafted Colbert. Let’s see what happens.