“Late Late Show’s” Craig Ferguson took a cue from history, sort of, in his first show back Wednesday night after the two-month strike furlough.
Near the top of his monologue he used the line: “As I was saying, before I was so rudely interrupted.” The tale has long been told that when the BBC resumed television broadcasts in June 1946 after a seven-year lapse because of the matter known as World War II, the picture resumed with the same announcer who’d last been heard on the air in September 1939 with the line: “As I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted.”
Great story. Unfortunately, it happens to be apocryphal, at least according to the Beeb. In 2006, BBC covered the 60th anniversary of its post-war return to the TV in-depth, and as it turns out, the opening words from host Jasmine Bligh were not quite as clever.
“Good afternoon everybody. How are you? Do you remember me, Jasmine Bligh? Well here we are after a lapse of nearly seven years ready to start again and of course we are all terribly excited and thrilled.”
The tall tale had it that the the BBC’s picture went dark in 1939 in the middle of a Mickey Mouse cartoon, and that it resumed seven years later at the exact same point in the toon with the announcer’s voice-over. In reality, the Mickey Mouse cartoon ran in full, then was followed by test signals. The tale is detailed in this BBC News account from June 2006.
Nonetheless, Ferguson seemed to be giving a nod to the past, at least the more interesting version. (My colleague Brian Lowry also notes in his insightful review of “Late Late Show” that Jack Paar also used the “As I was saying…” line when he came back to “The Tonight Show” in 1960 after famously walking off for a month in a censorship dispute with NBC.) He made his own solemn vow to the viewing public a few minutes later in his heartfelt, but still appropriately cheeky, opening soliloquy. In response to all the speculation that WGA-sanctioned David Letterman and Ferguson will have the advantage in booking top-tier guests over WGA-struck Jay Leno, Conan O’Brien and Jimmy Kimmel, Ferguson promised:
“This show won’t change a bit. It will be garbage. I make you this pledge people of America. We will not improve this show. It will not be funnier. It will not be better.”
What we really need now is a visit to “The Late Late Show” from Hugh Laurie. When he and Craig go at it, the brogue gets so thick you can cut it with a knife — and us Yanks can make out about every fourth word. Now that’s quality latenight television. Welcome back, Craig.
(Read Ferguson’s entire monologue after the jump.)