Stephen Colbert has been announced as the new host for CBS’s The Late Show when current host David Letterman retires next year, with a five-year contract. This is about the biggest non-surprise of the century so far.
The bottom line is fairly clear: Colbert will be significantly more enaging and funny than Letterman has been in recent years (which means being more likable and amusing than Joseph Stalin, Harry Reid, and Darth Vader), and he will be at least as reliably left-wing as the unbearable Letterman.
Expect Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show to continue to beat Late Night in the ratings after the initial curiosity-seeking audience bump for the CBS program once Colbert takes over for Letterman.
Larry, you’re quite right. I think Letterman’s meanness and cranky attitude, plus his obvious political bias, are what had reduced his audience so significantly in recent years. Replacing that bad attitude with another sort of bad attitude hardly seems the smartest approach to take.
Thanks for the comment, Larry. The comparison to Chase, as you say, has some resonance. Colbert’s attitude works just fine at Comedy Central, but given that network viewers during the 11:30 time slot already have the eminently likable Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel to choose from, I wonder how many people will feel the need for a smugger attitude as they drift off into the arms of Morpheus.
Yep, exactly. Most people aren’t looking for snark and smuggness right before they drift off to sleep; they want to end the day on a lighter, more comforting note.
Mike—Great points about Colbert’s persona. I think that Colbert will disappoint in particular in CBS’s evident goal of attracting a younger audience. Both Fallon and Kimmel are much more youthful and likeable than Colbert. You make an interesting point about Tosh, and he does have youth appeal. I don’t think Tosh’s comedy is needed at 11:30 p.m., especially on stodgy CBS with its inevitably lame pretensions to hipness, but he would at least have been a choice. Colbert is simply an assumption.
Will Colbert be as bad a talk show host as Chevy Chase? They both project a know-it-all, too cool for school arrogance that seems wrong for the job. I don’t think Colbert will crash and burn as quickly as Chase, simply because he’s so much more familiar with hosting a show, but the odds of failure are still high.
I can hardly think of a more deplorable choice; I cannot think of a riskier business decision. Colbert’s experience in hosting a program in his own skin is about the same as that of my dog. He plays a character, and if that character misrepresented and distorted any — any — group the way he does the Right, he would have to leave the country. The smart call was Daniel Tosh, who is doing a crueler and cruder version of exactly what Letterman did in the early 1980s, when his work was undeniably genius.
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