At the end of July, Craig Ferguson told Larry King that he would be willing to do another talk show, but “not right away”. Today, just three and a half months after announcing that he would walk away from his job as the host of CBS’ The Late Late Show after nearly a decade before the end of this year, Craig Ferguson is reportedly in talks to host a new show that will be filmed on his current set. A show that may have a similar tone to the one that he is leaving behind.
It may sound as if Ferguson, who also hosts a new edition of The Celebrity Name Game, a syndicated game show that is already filming, is essentially porting over a large part of his existing operation. However, there are actually many differences between The Late Late Show and what this new show could be. For example, according to Variety, Ferguson’s new show will be syndicated through Tribune Media in 42 markets starting in the fall of 2015; if the deal is consummated, it will air at either 7 PM or 7:30 as a half hour comedy/talk show hybrid. That is to say, a new kind of show for a comic talent that has made a name for himself by gleefully snubbing his nose at late night conventions.
“New” isn’t exactly correct, though. Syndicated talk shows are a staple, but usually they air during the daytime. Ellen DeGeneres has made a late night-esque talk show work, but that show is a bit more sunny than anything that the occasionally bemused, often silly and laid back Ferguson could likely pull off.
Is it possible that another late night show could have been discussed? I suppose that anything is possible, but would that have been enough of a change from Ferguson’s current and soon-to-be former job? Besides that, would it have made sense for Tribune to go back into the extremely competitive late night field after the failed Arsenio Hall experiment earlier this year (especially with a talent that has failed to be a strong performer in the ratings on CBS)? In some ways, going into syndicated late night with Ferguson (a beloved host with a small but dedicated following) would have been similar to what they just did with Arsenio (a beloved host with a small but dedicated following). Ferguson’s track record would be more recent, but there would also be less curiosity and nostalgic magnetism.
With all of that said, the 7 PM hour makes sense, even though a syndicated show with a late night slant has already failed in these fields before – see former Late Late Show host Craig Kilborn’s The Kilborn File, which had an unsuccessful 6 week trial run in 2010. What makes that Late Late Show Craig different than this one? To my mind, it’s all about the personality. With all due respect to Kilborn (who I actually didn’t mind on The Daily Show and The Late Late Show), his smug routine has always been an acquired taste, and more earnest hosts like Jon Stewart and Ferguson have succeeded where he had previously failed.
Ferguson’s comedy can also seem like an acquired taste. He’s a bit weird and wild, but he’s also one of the best interviewers on television (because of that unpredictability and his lack of formality) and he can be heart crackingly real at other times – while talking about the world around us – all while still finding a way to make people laugh. Moreover, he’s original and genuine; he’s someone that people can trust to be straight with them; and he is a little rebellious and un-phony. There’s a reason why his acolytes have viewed his exit from late night as a fierce body blow to a form that sprung an originality leak sometime ago.
A 7PM version of that host? If it actually happens, that’s good news. Because while TV’s conventions – the 6:30 network nightly news and the 11:30 talk show – remain stuck in place, Ferguson’s natural style could seem, to some, as if it is borrowing a bit from both (or the spirit of what both used to consistently provide, namely trustworthiness and spontaneous “Did you see that!?” moments) to create a really interesting television show. A show that people can laugh at while they eat dinner and recover from the deluge of rules, seriousness and phoniness that fills the average day. Also, this could mean one less out of work robot.
The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson airs Monday through Friday @12:35AM on CBS