When David Letterman announced his intention last week to retire from the Late Show on CBS and all of the late-night TV wars that have come with his career, everyone who had access to the Internet posted a Top 10 List of possible replacements for him. Many even went with a list completely devoid of white men. Just to go against precedent.
What’s the more realistic solution, though? How might this actually play out?
Nice to throw names into the mix, whether they want to be mixed in or not, because people like being thought of and mentioned and whatnot. Heck, whenever something like this happens, my mother calls and/or emails me to let me know of the job opening. Maybe I should call Les Moonves and make it official?!
Reading some of these “possible late-night host” lists feels like wishlists made by the friends and parents of comedians.
Are any of these people available?
Do they have any experience hosting a talk show? On TV? On network TV? Podcasting has given hundreds of comedians the chance to test out their hosting and interviewing capabilities on an audio microphone, but would that translate to the bigger stage of television with its live and at-home studio audiences?
Do they even want the rigors and responsibilities of hosting a talk show five nights a week on network television?
That reduces the field quite a bit.
Because Moonves and the suits at CBS are not going to just hand the job to someone who isn’t tested. After midnight? Maybe. But even then, CBS held tryouts before picking Craig Ferguson as host of The Late Late Show when they replaced Craig Kilborn (he beat out Michael Ian Black, D.L. Hughley and Damien Fahey in 2005).
So let’s suss this out. Notice my headline: “The odds-on favorites to host a late-night TV show on CBS in 2015.” Not just the Late Show. What will CBS programming look like overall? Who’s up for three hours of Comics Unleashed with Byron Allen repeats! Alrighty then…
When the dominos fall at CBS, Ferguson is first in line, for better, for worse, for richer and for poorer. Because he’s currently married to Worldwide Pants and CBS, Ferguson may have first crack at the time-slot promotion by contractual arrangement. His contract, however, is up at year’s end. So CBS and Worldwide Pants could just call it a night and say goodbye. But. BUT. That would mean Worldwide Pants and its two late-night crews would be out of work. Oh, and also, the Eye Network then would have two hours of programming to fill after the late local news.
Welcome to 1992 all over again?
Not this time.
Ferguson has joked in the past few nights about who may take over for Letterman — last night, his monologue included a graphic of a fake front-page newspaper article, “David Letterman To Be Replaced By Honey Boo Boo.” “Dave replaced by Honey Boo Boo?! Well, if it’s on the Internet and it’s in the newspapers, it must be true!” Ferguson quipped. Followed by a smirk. And a few minutes later, “robot skeleton” sidekick Geoff Peterson chimed in, “They’re really skewing young” Ferguson’s reply: “Well, what are you gonna do?” Followed by a visual sigh. And another grin. On Tuesday, CraigyFerg and guest Jon Hamm had a good laugh about the idea of Hamm getting the gig. The night before, Ferguson stood proudly next to his sidekick and proclaimed, once more, that nobody was paying attention to his hour. How The Late Late Show was “NOT LIKE ANY OTHER LATE NIGHT SHOW.”
Which means you won’t bloody well expect to see it an hour earlier. If Worldwide Pants and Peter Lassally, Ferguson’s 81-year-old executive producer (and e.p. to Letterman and Johnny Carson before him), want to keep going, then they’d just as likely be comfortable staying where they’re at. If not, then all the dominos fall, and CBS has two hours.
At 11:35 p.m. Eastern/Pacific, conventional wisdom says Stephen Colbert is your frontrunner.
I’ll add some creative wisdom with my two cents and pitch you LATE SHOW with STEPHEN COLBERT and AMY SEDARIS (pictured above)!
Ten years is an awfully nice round number, and 2015 will mark 10 years since Colbert put on the “Stephen Colbert” act for Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report. Colbert’s contract is up at the end of 2014, too. We already know he’s had discussions with CBS (the network started talking to several other people in advance of Letterman’s retirement announcement, so let’s not forget that).
He has two Grammy Awards, Emmys, WGAs and this year, the People’s Choice Award for favorite late-night talk show host. Colbert also has the most remarkable White House Correspondents Dinner address of our times to his credit.
What else could he want but the chance to shine as himself, as the real Stephen Colbert?
And to do it with one of David Letterman’s all-time favorite guests, and one of Colbert’s all-time favorite comedy partners, by his side?! Priceless.
From Second City to Exit 57 to Strangers With Candy, it’s time once more to reunite Colbert and Sedaris, this time allowing their charm and charisma to dazzle us on a nightly basis.
The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and Amy Sedaris: Not just another white guy.
You’re welcome, America.
Plus, Jon Stewart just told Vulture that Colbert should get the job!
“He’s done an amazing job with just that very narrow cast of character, but he’s got a lot more he can show,” Stewart told Vulture last night. “He has got some skill sets that are really applicable, interviewing-wise, but also he’s a really, really good actor and also an excellent improvisational comedian. He’s also got great writing skills. He’s got a lot of the different capacities. Being able to expand upon [those] would be exciting.”
“I don’t have that gear, I don’t think,” for network late-night, Stewart added. “I just don’t really have it anymore. I really like what I do, not that Stephen doesn’t. But he has a real opportunity to broaden out in a way that I don’t.”
If only CBS already knew someone fronting a talk show five times a week who had the ear of someone close to Moonves…oh, hello, Julie Chen! I didn’t see you there sitting next to Aisha Tyler each afternoon on The Talk. Curiously, they didn’t talk at all about David Letterman’s retirement on The Talk on Friday, nor on Monday, nor even Tuesday. Are they letting The View keep hold of all of the Hot Topics? Or are they saving all of the Tyler-to-late-night discussions for the backroom wheeling dealing.
You certainly cannot sit through an hour of The Talk without imagining Tyler’s inner monologue, imagining herself, in turn, on a bigger, brighter stage where she can bring her “Girl On Guy” skills to the television table.
In related news, CBS Television Studios has optioned Tyler’s book of essays, Self-Inflicted Wounds, for a screen adaptation. Sounds like it’d make a great segment on late-night TV, too. Just saying.
In the meantime, Tyler has her other hosting gig on The CW (junior network partner to CBS) with Whose Line is it Anyway? and her voice on FX’s now long-running animated spy spoof, Archer. So 2015 looks good for her, regardless.
NEIL PATRICK HARRIS
NPH is a bit of a wildcard. At a Monday press conference for things Broadway-related, Harris said he was too busy for his new Broadway gig in Hedwig and the Angry Inch to worry about late-night TV.
Good answer. Honest answer. Since it’s April 2014. Ask him again in 2015?
“But I’m a big fan of CBS and Les’s, so who knows?” Harris said, before adding: “It would be an asinine amount of work.”
Harris, fresh off his Emmy-winning portrayal of Barney Stinson on How I Met Your Mother, has been the go-to guy for CBS on big awards hosting gigs, helming the Emmys the last two times CBS had it in rotation, and the Tony Awards four times. ABC and NBC push their late-night Jimmys onstage whenever they have an awards show to present, so obviously, NPH already is regarded by CBS as its equivalent to Fallon or Kimmel. It’s just a matter of time. Or timing.
Now, about Barney’s brother from another mother…
Wayne Brady won the Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Talk Show Host both years he hosted a talk show (2003-2004) in syndication via ABC. Now he’s out front and center in daytime for CBS with the revived Let’s Make A Deal. You want singing and dancing and comedy?
If not NPH, then Brady is your other option.
The daytime field includes other would-be, could-be, should-be late-night hosting candidates, too, to be sure.
Ellen DeGeneres reigns supreme right now, and there’s no reason why you couldn’t air her entire broadcast at 11:35 p.m. as easily as you could at 3 p.m. or 4 p.m. Except for the reason that DeGeneres just re-upped her deal with Telepictures Productions through 2017. So unless CBS wants to pay Telepictures a pretty penny, that ain’t happening.
There’s also The Queen Latifah Show. Don’t forget that CBS likes Latifah so much, it puts her onstage for big occasions such as the Grammys, and she just took home the People’s Choice Award (a CBS broadcast) for Favorite New Talk Show Host.
Last but not least by any measure, because she’ll likely get one of the two hours available on CBS in 2015 when all is said and done…
Chelsea Handler threw her hat into the late-night TV ring last month with impeccable timing, didn’t she?
Of course, Handler’s already in the ring! As host of Chelsea Lately on E!, she’s been revolutionary in breaking new comedians with her nightly panel talks onto bigger platforms and club dates. As part of Comcast and now NBCUniversal, she also had been a loyal and frequent guest of Jay Leno’s.
But now, finally, she has put her foot down and looking for something more significant, more vital in a TV hosting gig than merely mocking tabloid fodder.
If she doesn’t get the Late Show gig (and if she did, she’d be most likely to take it back to California with her!), then look to see her in The Late Late Show slot instead come 2015.
Unless CBS did something truly wild and gave the job to Vince Vaughn. Wouldn’t that be something, though!?
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