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April 10, 2014

Great: Leftist Crank David Letterman to be Replaced by Leftist Crank Stephen Colbert

You know, the racist.

Stephen Colbert, the host of Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report," will succeed David Letterman as the host of "The Late Show," CBS Corp. CBS -2.52% announced on Thursday.


CBS said in a statement that it had signed a five-year agreement with Mr. Colbert to take over its flagship show when Mr. Letterman retires next year.

Mr. Colbert will retire the character he plays on his Comedy Central show--a send-up of Republican talk-show hosts--and will be himself as the host of the CBS show, the company said.

Craig Ferguson meanwhile has what's apparently called a "Prince of Wales" clause that guarantees him the show upon Letterman's retirement. However, that guarantee isn't solid; CBS can just pay a hefty penalty to him if they don't give him the show.

So I guess they'll be doing that, and I guess Ferguson becomes a free agent, and might just retire.

I imagined CBS might have trouble imagining Ferguson as an 11:30 host (although I'm not really sure there's such a terrific difference between an 11:30 show and a 12:30 one).

But then I don't see how you give Ferguson the middle finger in order to hire a different oddball with a narrow appeal and a weird vibe.

Ferguson's weird vibe is both more original and less alienating than Colbert's own weird vibe. Sure, Ferguson's show is essentially Pee Wee's Playhouse, as hosted by a recovering-alcoholic Scotsman. But the weirdness -- involving puppets, gay skeleton robots, and pantomime horses -- wasn't the sort of weirdness with an animus towards anyone.

Colbert says he'll be playing himself on the new show. Well, fine... but I've never seen Colbert play himself before. I've seen him play (very well, I have to admit) the strange homophobic gay history teacher Chuck Noblet on Strangers with Candy, and I've seen him play a strange mutant Bill-O'Reilly-As-Glimpsed-in-Progressive-Nightmares character on clips from the Colbert Report.

Basically I've seen him play a lot of strange characters. I assume there's a reason for that, that that's his metier.

What evidence does CBS have that the real Colbert will play with a large audience?

Okay, One Last Point: Sorry to be campaigning so hard for Ferguson, even after it's too late to matter.

But here you go.

An 11:30 host has been thought to need two things to succeed.

First, he had to be funny, obviously.

But more importantly -- remember, there are a lot of funny guys out there, and very few are asked to host an 11:30 talk show -- he had to be likable, "relatable" (as they say in Hollywood focus groups), and someone the audience had an easy feeling of rapport with.

This is part of the reason there was such a big tumult regarding the Leno vs. Letterman choice NBC made so long ago. Neither man seemed to have Johnny Carson's easy charm. Letterman was odd and often bitter in his humor; Leno was odd and often off-putting in his puppylike need to ingratiate.

Both men were clearly bored during most interviews.

If either man had had that Carson-like Relatability Factor, there would have been no controversy at all.

I don't know who Colbert is as a real person. I've seen him play the Chuck Noblet character and the Mutant Bill O'Reilly character. (And, by the way, the Mutant Bill O'Reilly character is more or less exactly like the Chuck Noblet character, except not gay.)

I have become a fanboy of Ferguson's, however, and not just because he's funny. Oh, the show is funny, sure. But I watch the show because he's likable, and he seems interesting.

So on the likability front, CBS has evidence that Ferguson has it. They have no such evidence (apart from, I guess, some impromptu "test interviews") that Colbert does.

Craig Ferguson Will Net $8 Million for Not Being Hired. $8 million penalty clause if he isn't hired to replace Letterman.

Chickenfeed, really. Letterman's deal with CBS (which NBC would have had to match clause-by-clause if NBC wanted to keep him) included a $50 million penalty clause if his show didn't air at 11:30. (That is, CBS intended to air it at 11:30, so had no problem writing in this huge penalty; but if NBC tried to match the contract (NBC had matching rights, the right to duplicate any third party contract and compel Letterman to sign with them instead of the third party), but keep Letterman on at 12:30, they would have had to pay him $50 million for the privilege.)

Now that I read a few articles (and commenters' posts), it does seem like Ferguson's ratings have taken a big hit, losing audience to Seth Meyers.

How that happened, I have no idea. Before the Fallon/Meyers debut (and I don't expect those high ratings to last), Ferguson's show was getting good ratings and he was building audience.

They Made the Right Choice: You can't top Big Funny like this.

“Simply being a guest on David Letterman’s show has been a highlight of my career,” Colbert said in a statement. “I never dreamed that I would follow in his footsteps, though everyone in late night follows Dave’s lead.”

“Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go grind a gap in my front teeth,” he quipped.

Bazinga.

It's possible Ferguson just didn't want the show that much. He's previously expressed equanimity about continuing on with his current show. (However, I suspect those expressions of reluctance were made at about the same time he was negotiating a new contract.)


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posted by Ace at 12:31 PM

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