The comic and host of THE COLBERT REPORT would have been better off to turn down THE LATE SHOW job at CBS, columnist Mike Vago writes at AVClub.com.
For the past eight years, The Colbert Report has been like nothing else on television. The Report and Colbert’s on-air persona (which the media has collectively decided to call “Stephen Colbert” in quotation marks) are a specific spoof of right-wing cable news, yet the show’s satire manages to be as all-encompassing as The Simpsons in its heyday. Colbert and his staff take on media, politics, celebrity, and anything else relevant to how we live life in modern-day America. The Late Show With Stephen Colbert will be a good talk show. It may be the best talk show on television. But at best, it will be just another talk show.
As the host of Report, Colbert did incisive, riotously funny satire that somehow lost none of its bite after eight years on the air. As the host of Late Show, no matter how much energy, wit, and intelligence he brings to the job, he’s still going to spend half the night talking to Kate Hudson about her new romantic comedy. Worse yet, it’s not clear he’s going to reach a bigger audience. While Letterman has had better ratings than Colbert overall, The Colbert Report has routinely beaten Late Show in the under-50 demographic for the past few years. “Stephen Colbert” is unique in the television landscape, maybe in television history (as Comedy Central is sure to find out when the network tries to replace Report next year). But no matter how well Stephen Colbert does at Late Night, in the end, he’s just another Jimmy in an increasingly crowded field.
Colbert is merely the latest television personality to be lured from a successful, career-defining job, by the opportunity to fill the seat of a broadcast legend.
Sometimes — as with Jimmy Fallon on THE TONIGHT SHOW — the suit fits perfectly and everyone is a winner.
But more often, it seems, audience and network expectations end up tanking the project and what seemed like the break of a lifetime ends up as anything but.
Piers Morgan gave up his seat on AMERICA’S GOT TALENT — the show that made him a household name around the world — to take over the slot held for decades by Larry King at CNN. After two years of miserable ratings, the plug was pulled last month leaving his next move to be determined.
Katie Couric also shot herself in the foot by ditching her 15 year post as co-host of NBC’s TODAY show to follow in the footsteps of Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather as anchor of THE CBS EVENING NEWS, Vago writes.
She took it, and then she found out too late that it actually wasn’t a big deal. Couric took over the nightly news at a moment when America collectively stopped giving a shit about the nightly news. Cronkite became a legendary figure in no small part because he had little competition. Couric was just one more voice amid the din of cable news and talk radio, all of whom were losing ground to the Internet. She had ascended to the peak of a shrinking mountain. What’s worse, the light touch that had served her so well on Today was a liability in the world of hard news, where her toughest and best-remembered interview question ended up being “What newspapers do you read?”
Vago also has some interesting commentary about Conan O’Brien and his struggles at THE TONIGHT SHOW.
You can read his entire story here.
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