Thursday, May 21, 2015
Life After Letterman: What Do We Do Now?
First it was Don Draper who left us, but at least he sort of left us the "I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing" Coke ad.
Now, Dave Letterman has left TV, and he has left us three successors who might not pick up where he left off, but they get close. That doesn't include Stephen Colbert because he hasn't started yet.
What will CBS do now that Letterman has gone? It has the "perfect solution": reruns of The Mentalist at 11:35, followed by The Late Late Show With James Cordon.
With a combo like that, James will get less viewers than what Conan said he'd have last night at 11:35. I mean, why not "Best of Dave"? Bringing back the notorious Madonna or Joaquin Phoenix interviews, or Drew Barrymore's dance, could outdraw Fallon. That's a better idea than trying to revive "Crimetime After Primetime", which never worked anyway.
So, is Conan O'Brien the new Elder of Late Night? Well, because of seniority, yes. He learned a lot from Letterman since he took the Late Night gig, but he admits it was his decision to appear on Conan that really made the difference:
It's led to some really odd ideas like Puppy Conan, mascots who can't slam dunk but somehow do, Minty, The Flaming C and jeggings. It also led to a fine website, that trip to Cuba, and an upcoming trip to Comic-Con that he thinks will break his show. Conan's style will keep the Letterman tradition going, at least for now. After all, Conan's been at this for more than 20 years. He might be good for another decade or so.
As far as copying the Letterman structure, Jimmy Kimmel is closest to that. He's got a good relationship with his bandleader. He also has a family of co-conspirators, including his real family, that keep the laughs going. Aside from that, he's come up with great bits like Liewitness News, This Week In Unecessary Censorship, and really goofy man-on-the-street bits. He also had that great show honoring his Uncle Frank, the first breakout star of the show, and the time he taped his show with his laptop because of a power outage. This, however, will make Jimmy my choice:
Jimmy Fallon will be the front-runner because he inherited Jay Leno's chair. His bits aren't as edgy as his time at 12:35 (anyone miss Wheel of Carpet Samples?), but his skills as a comic, musician and mimic are impressive. He's actually more talented than Leno and Johnny Carson put together, and those two guys never had a bit that wound up as a cable TV show and another one that became a best seller. Also, he can play off his announcer and his band for laughs, just like Johnny and Conan. I'm watching last night's show, and it looks like he knew how many people would tune in against Letterman's last show. He did have a tribute during the May 18th show:
Stephen Colbert, your move.
It'll be tough switching from a Bill O'Reilly wanna-be to being the new host of The Late Show. Fox news is already predicting his failure, but it doesn't like his act. In any case, he'll have all summer to get his plan underway. I'd suggest interrupting Mentalist reruns, saying, "Network reruns at 11:30 is so '90s. This fall, I'm the next big thing."
If James Corden is really lucky, he'll still have his show, especially if he interrupts Fallon or Kimmel, saying, "Hey, I didn't leave CBS. My show's still on at 12:35. Please tune in to my show. Really, I need the viewers!"