Ever since CBS announced one week ago that longtime talk show host David Letterman planned to retire in 2015, the celebrity swirl has been abuzz with prognostications. Houston, Texas, television fans are no exception in wondering who’d be the next successor; many names were proffered as the heir apparent for the slot. One favorite, Stephen Colbert, emerged early. Great news for all the fans of “The Colbert Report” came on April 10, 2014, as CBS announced a five-year agreement between CBS and Colbert.
Les Moonves, President and CEO of CBS Corporation and Nina Tassler, Chairman of CBS Entertainment issued the joint press release noting “Colbert’s premiere date as host of “The Late Show” will be announced after Mr. Letterman determines a timetable for his final broadcasts in 2015.
Colbert is a successful multitasker, as he is currently the host, writer and executive producer of his own Emmy and Peabody Award-winning show on Comedy Central, “The Colbert Report.” Colbert’s on-air style is relaxed, funny in a spontaneous way, with intelligent writing and deadpan delivery that really reminds viewers of the original king of TV late night, Steve Allen.
Colbert said, “Simply being a guest on David Letterman’s show has been a highlight of my career. I never dreamed that I would follow in his footsteps, though everyone in late night follows Dave’s lead.”
Les Moonves, Nina Tassler, and company can expect a ratings rise for the time slot that has often struggled as complacency has found the current show the default choice when not much else is on. It’s a smart move for CBS because they needed someone with credibility and talent in place in the same genre rather than breaking in another newbie who audiences would have to grow to love, or not. No one wanted to risk having viewer uncertainty or a talent too young and unchallenged to leave the door open for changing the channel.
In true solemn and reverent humility, CBS reported that Colbert said “I’m thrilled and grateful that CBS chose me. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go grind a gap in my front teeth.” Just about what you’d expect from a wiseacre who earned his chops as part of Chicago’s Second City group. The man is simply funny without being mean, rude, or snarky. He “thinks” funny and writes what he’s thinking.
Colbert can also appeal to the younger viewers as he was a cast member and writer on ABC’s “The Dana Carvey Show.” He’s “hip and cool enough” to meet the fans of Jimmy Fallon head on, particularly as he was a former writer for “Saturday Night Live,” and HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” His voice is familiar to people who’ve never even seen “The Colbert Report,” because he has “voiced roles in Dream Works’ animated films “Mr. Peabody and Sherman” and “Monsters vs. Aliens.”
If you want to know how Colbert racked up two Peabody Aards and 27 Emmy nominations, chalk it up to his writing talents, above all other talents. He’s the author of “I am America (and So Can You!) and “America Again: Re-Becoming the Greatness We Never Weren’t,” which made the New York Times bestseller list. The CBS press release also noted that “America Again” won a 2014 Grammy Award for Spoken Word.
Humility and humor are his daily breakfast food. When Colbert won the Grammy in January, 2014, the Hollywood Reporter noted that “he congratulated himself on his award, noting ‘It is like the Nobel prize of audiobooks,’ and you just can’t help but laugh at him. The ultracool Colbert is also intelligent enough to appeal to a senior demographic as well as this group might want to reject the competition as just a little too silly for their tastes.
Stephen Colbert has to be the best choice that Les Moonves and Nina Tassler have made all year, given his universal appeal. Given the excitement and anticipation of Colbert as “the new” and the resounding ratings success that NBC has earned with Jimmy Fallon, CBS is going to want to hit the ground running with the new Colbert endeavor for “The Late Show.”
No word on music for the show, but it’s also been thought that Paul Shaffer and the CBS Orchestra, more commonly known as “The World’s Most Dangerous Band,” may pursue other options, or they could stick around. More details will be announced in weeks to come, but for now, rack up another win for CBS: “The Eye’s got it, once again.”