It’s without a doubt that Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert is the perfect person to replace current host David Letterman. Colbert’s genius grew incredibly strong during his eight seasons on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Colbert’s hard work and talent excelled so much, Colbert himself got his own show, The Colbert Report in 2005. In ‘The Report’ (both ‘Colbert’ and ‘Report’ are pronounced without the ‘T’ – giving the title a tongue-in-cheek French twist), Colbert developed a blowhard, clueless talk radio show host-type conservative bent. The result has been phenomenal, thus earning Colbert and his brilliant staff several accolades over the years.
It has always seemed that The Colbert Report would go on forever, but like all great things, they do come to an end. One wonders what Comedy Central’s future might look like without The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. Of course, anything is possible, including–God forbid–the end of The Tonight Show or even Saturday Night Live. Well, fortunately those scenarios will not happen anytime soon, but the fact is, Stephen Colbert is taking over David Letterman’s late night CBS-TV program sometime in 2015.
Even though I’m excited about Letterman’s replacement, I’m a bit melancholy. After all, Letterman is the longest running late night TV host in the medium’s entire history. When one adds up Letterman’s 11 seasons on NBC-TV where he hosted the Late Night program plus his now 21-year -run with CBS-TV as host on Late Show, that is a remarkable record – besting Letterman’s mentor, Johnny Carson, who hosted NBC-TV’s The Tonight Show for nearly 30 years himself. With Carson, there is an asterisk on his longevity. For many of the years Carson’s name was attached to The Tonight Show, he was absent on many nights. Either a re-run or a guest host replaced Johnny Carson on those evenings. Carson was “phoning it in” long before the term was created. Still, his understated elegance is something to be missed and for that, it will always remain in the history books.
This all brings me to another bit of melancholy. Both Carson and Letterman were incredibly talented, mild-mannered classy gentlemen from American’s heartland. Now, one might say that Dave has become cranky in the last decade, thus abandoning his Midwestern U.S. sensibilities, but all in all, both Carson and Letterman a bye-gone era that is about to end. Indeed both hosts produced their programs on America’s coasts, but they honestly did not forget where they came from and it showed in their personas. There is a certain conservative radio talk show host who opined about this news recently, but he’s looking at things through his own skewed prism. What’s ending in 2015 is an era in television whereby the talent not only came from humble beginnings, but carried that character trait throughout their lives despite their fame and fortune.
Stephen Colbert did not come from the either New York or Los Angeles where one is raised in a tougher environment like his boss Jon Stewart. No, Colbert is from South Carolina which is where he learned quite a bit about Southern sensibilities including kindness, respect and a chivalrous spirit. For many, it’s hard to believe that Colbert still carries those traits during his meteoric success, but they would be wrong. Once Colbert takes over Late Show, there is no doubt that America will see more of those Southern characteristics shine through.
Let’s not forget that the late night talk show circuit is quite crowded with the recent return of Arsenio Hall’s syndicated program, ABC-TV’s Jimmy Kimmel, Craig Ferguson on CBS-TV and Seth Myers who follows Jimmy Fallon on NBC-TV. With about 500 channels on our cable television or satellite receiver systems, I’m sure to be remiss on mentioning another late night TV competitor in this space. What I’m not remiss about is that there is no female late night TV program host and that is quite a shame. Females comedic performers have only gotten stronger since Lucille Ball took the art to higher levels in the 1950s and later on, Gilda Radner in the 1970s. In a sad twist of irony, both Ball and Radner died 25 years ago — as of this writing — approximately within a month of each other. It’s quite a missed opportunity for any of these networks or syndicators to pass up on offering perhaps former 30 Rock and Saturday Night Live star Tina Fey to host such a program.
Indeed the late night television landscape is changing with Letterman’s departure, but like his soon-to-be competitor on NBC-TV, Jimmy Fallon — current host of The Tonight Show — Colbert will honor that tradition of upholding Letterman’s classiness. Even with few reservations about CBS-TV’s latest move, at the end of the day, it is a decent decision.