There is a possibility that you do not recognize James Corden’s picture or his name. There’s also a possibility that, while looking at his picture, you are feeling a sense of disappointment over the rumor that the UK actor will likely replace Craig Ferguson as the host of The Late Late Show, because once again a network chose a white male to anchor one of these much discussed and coveted late night hosting slots, eschewing the chance to add a bit of diversity to late night.
There are people who will say that CBS didn’t even add “a name” like they did when they picked Stephen Colbert to replace David Letterman and that Corden hasn’t paid his dues like Jimmy Fallon and Seth Meyers did. No one will say that it’s his “turn” when they talk about this choice, but none of this is James Corden’s fault and it’s unfair to judge him against past splashy choices and the long list of theoretical candidates that CBS may or may not have considered for this job; especially since we don’t know who was actually interested in the job (save for Norm Macdonald, which could have been weird and majestic), or what made Corden the right choice – and what CBS was looking for in the first place.
Two weeks ago, CBS Entertainment chair Nina Tassler hinted that they might not even go with a traditional late night series to replace Craig Ferguson, gently floating the possibility of a political series. So when we remember that and realize that, despite Ferguson’s critical success and his cult following, The Late Late Show has been a consistent under-performer that has been badly beaten by NBC’s Late Night with Seth Meyers in the ratings, the picture becomes clearer.
With the success and youth of Meyers’ show and the dominance shown by his Tonight Show lead-in, CBS had three choices in front of them. They could engage in an arms race with NBC by hiring a big name host and committing a lot of resources to a timeslot that has barely outdrawn Last Call with Carson Daly lately; run away from late night comedy at 12:35 entirely; or go with a somewhat lesser known talent that would cost them less – giving the network ample flexibility for the future after years of ceding control of the 12:35 timeslot to David Letterman’s company. The latter choice seems to match up with the James Corden rumor, and it also makes the most sense. CBS made their splashy late night hire when they chose Colbert, a host who can slug it out with Fallon on a regular basis – and if we’ve learned anything from NBC’s recent twin late night success, it’s that lead-ins matter a great deal.
Seth Meyers’ Late Night isn’t terrible, it’s just a bit bland and devoid of the independent and experimental spirit exhibited by the versions of Late Night that preceded it. As a devout fan of those shows (and a big admirer of the work that Ferguson has done), Meyers has not impressed me with anything but his ability to hold onto a decent chunk of Fallon’s audience. Take that away and that show is incredibly vulnerable. It’s a shame that Ferguson won’t have the chance to feast on that vulnerability should Colbert take the crown from Fallon’s head, but there is something to be said for a fresh start. While there are people that adore Ferguson, there are also those who might feel left out by the clubhouse feel of his show, and so they might have been lost to CBS. Corden comes in with a clean slate.
I don’t want to make it seem as though that’s all that James Corden brings to the table, though. This is a supremely talented comic actor (a Tony-winning stage actor at that) and a gifted writer, who is about to break out with a key role in Disney’s Into the Woods. If you’re a Doctor Who fan, you’ve seen Corden make two appearances during the Matt Smith era as Craig, a somewhat bumbly but ultimately heroic everyman. Others may know him from his six episode Hulu/BBC co-production, The Wrong Mans, or as the co-creator and co-writer of Gavin and Stacey, which he also co-starred in. He’s not a stand-up, though he’s dabbled, but he does come across as personable and quick during chat show appearances and in various comedy sketches. As such, we can forecast that those skills will translate to this new role, even if we have no idea what this version of The Late Late Show will look like – and that’s a bit exciting.
We didn’t know that Craig Ferguson would one day lead a late night show that was gleefully indifferent to the rules of the form and the behavior of its contemporaries. The same can be said of Conan O’Brien and David Letterman when they first debuted their 12:35 shows. That’s what that hour has historically been, a place for late night comedy to experiment and grow. Trends that shape the earlier shows start there, but networks have to be willing to let that process occur. Without the big name and the unrealistically high expectations that come with that, Corden’s debut will slip under the radar a little bit and it is possible that CBS will do just that.
James Corden will create his show and it will be good, bad, or a little bit of both; he’ll either give Meyers a run for his money thanks largely to the Colbert bump, or people will be cool to it and he’ll be replaced after a time. That sounds horrible and stressful, but it’s the same batch of circumstances that brought Ferguson’s Late Late Show and both Letterman and Conan’s Late Night shows into maturity. James Corden has everything to gain and a lot of talent. This is his chance to truly break out in the US, and so he may as well die with his boots on and do “his” show – be it weird or in another way unique – and not something generic or a version of Ferguson’s show.
Is this choice historic or a win for fans of diversity? No, but it could wind up being a win for comedic diversity if Corden uses this perceived freedom to create something that stands out, at least; as late night has become more and more homogenized (we give full credit to Fallon for his mastery of next-day viral videos, but the meat and potatoes of his show and its tone aren’t all that unique) we will take that potential win and celebrate it. Also, we really hope he keeps Geoff and the horse, or that they get their own spinoff called Geoff and the Horse.
Stay tuned to Screen Rant for future news on The Late Late Show.
Source: The Wrap