Craig Ferguson’s Farewell: More Classy Than Convincing (Analysis)

Craig Ferguson Bids Farewell to CBS'

Craig Ferguson wasn’t going to get a promotion, and after doing the same thing for nearly a decade, chose to quit his job. In the bigger scheme of things – especially for a guy with a lot of money and plenty of options – that’s not much of a newsflash.

But latenight television is unique in a lot of ways, and one of them is that the over-sized talent – often identifiable to the world by their first names – usually has an opportunity to explain a decision to leave, unlike almost everyone else in the world or even in TV, where shows and personalities disappear all the time, without always meriting a lot of fanfare.

The prospect of Ferguson moving on had seemed likely after CBS opted to fill David Letterman’s slot with Stephen Colbert, even if the Comedy Central host was about as close to a perfect choice – taking into account the unpredictable nature of such situations – as the network could have made.

In a brief on-air opening, Ferguson made clear the exit was his idea, on his terms. He even urged his fans not to gripe about CBS. “This is my decision to go,” he said, insisting the network “has been great with me.”

Both on Monday’s show and in an interview with Variety, Ferguson also maintained he had decided to hang it up before Letterman’s surprise announcement. Ferguson jokingly told people not to believe the speculation they’ll read – even that emanating from the “informed entertainment press.”

Yet at the risk of falling into that dreaded camp, this much appears obvious: While CBS doubtless would have been fine with Ferguson sticking around in his present capacity, the network soured on him at some point in the context of potentially being a viable heir to the 11:35 p.m. showcase. And if he didn’t harbor any aspirations for that bump, the Scotsman would be nearly unique among latenight hosts since Letterman gave birth to the “Late Night” franchise at NBC.

The other thought, watching Ferguson riff with his robot, is such skepticism seems justified. Ferguson’s show is loose, fun, irreverent, but it’s often just plain silly — a vibe better suited, frankly, to a timeslot where the most formidable competition is sleep.

On the plus side, Ferguson’s departure offers CBS another shot at filling a latenight vacancy, and perhaps addressing the criticism that all these shows on the major networks – even with the changing of the guard taking place – are still fronted by white men.

In some respects, Ferguson should be celebrated for even landing the gig in the first place — he was certainly an unconventional choice — and making “The Late Late Show” his own. Besides, it’ll be a long time before there’s another host who can match his Sean Connery impersonation.

“I’m not retiring or committing suicide,” Ferguson told guest LL Cool J.

On that score, at least, even the very informed entertainment press should happily take him at his word.




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  1. RedRiver says:

    Woefully under promoted by CBS. They never really backed The Late, Late Show like NBC did for Fallon’s Late Night show on NBC. Ferguson has every right to be pissed. CBS’ late night line-up suffers from their inability to show its support. Dave had a built in audience, the new guy will be in third place forever….unless Leno comes back on FOX.

  2. Mike says:

    Truth be told, “The Late, Late Show” is really a version of Dave’s original “Late Night” on NBC. Back then Dave would do all kinds of crazy things like throwing stuff off a building, wearing the velcro suit, stupid pet tricks, playing with the format of talk show TV. Similarly, Craig has added the gay robot skeleton, the pantomime horse, the bizzare ‘Tweets and Emails’ openings, and to their credit, the network has really let him run with it. Dave’s “Late Show” really was his “Tonight Show” with CBS giving him the historic Ed Sullivan Theater to work out of. I don’t think Craig would fit well as a host of a “Tonight Show”…he was more of a parody act…or as he calls it, a “deconstructed talk show.” Whatever you call it, I think “The Late, Late Show” has been a joy, even just watching Mr. Ferguson dance with Secretariat. Good luck, Craig!

  3. Pat McNees says:

    I watched his show twice. I didn’t laugh once. I never even cracked a smile.

  4. K Plan says:

    Ferguson said in an interview about 3 years ago, when there were rumors about Jon Stewart taking over for Dave, that he didn’t expect to get the gig, didn’t feel he’d earned it, and had no plans on taking it. So you can choose not to believe that he’s retiring now b/c of a lack of interest, but his interest in doing other things has been clear for a long while (in part, by writing two books during his talk show stint), and he’s not made it a secret ever.

  5. Scott Wallace says:

    Hmm, you know it would be nice to have a female host doing some Late Night show for a change…instead of just guys all the time.

  6. Gomalio Fung says:

    Take your Cheapside cockney accent and go back to being a street corner tout in Piccadilly, you bloody arsehole.

  7. Angela says:

    I’ve LOVED Craig and his show! So unique and original and just plain HILARIOUS. No other talk show host has given me the laughing fits that Craig has. And it was a huge thrill when at one time he read my email on air. SWEET!
    I’ll miss him.

  8. EV Emmons says:

    I absolutely love Craig and his show. I’ve watched him for years, and every night he managed to cheer me up, even if I didn’t have a rough day. He’s brilliant, unique, talented and irreverent. I think CBS is staid and dull, and I can’t say I blame Craig for putting his skeleton in the closet, and putting Secretariat out to pasture. I think being the classy man he is, he’s leaving because it’s offensive that they didn’t give him Dave’s slot. I won’t be watching any more late nite after December, there will never be another Craig, as far as I’m concerned, and anyone else they have now, does not interest me at all. Good luck Craig! CBS can go suck it. He won’t say it, but I will.

  9. Vicky Chang says:

    Loved, loved Craig for several years. But I did change my viewing habits and I dont tivo – feels like too much work building up…HATED that damn robot he insisted on working into his act every night. once in a while i could handle – but that made me feel like he was playing to the cheap seats. Having said that (larry david), Craig has such a likable personalty, I try to channel him in job interviews! Craig, babay, grow out you hair again. You were funnier with bushier hair. Onward and upward, Craigy!

  10. Chris says:

    I really can’t imagine Ferguson’s brand of insanity in the 11:30 time slot, and I can’t imagine him being anything other than what he is. I accept his statement that he didn’t want the 11:30 slot based on that alone. As for who he “wanted to be,” well, if there was anyone he idolized (based on things he’s said) it would be Tom Snyder, another incredibly smart, funny and irreverent host, a consummate interviewer, and an incredible talent. Mr. Ferguson frequently reminds me – in very good ways – of the last Snyder. We were in the audience the night Geoff was born (as a skull on a stick) and watched the development of the character in real-time, a rare combination of brains and talent.

    Thanks for 10 great years, sir. You will be missed.

  11. Jacques Strappe says:

    Ferguson is the best and most unique late night host. His loopy stream of consciousness dialogues are priceless. Hopefully, CBS won’t replace him with someone as bland, generic and as safe and overrated as Fallon but the odds are great they will. Late night is becoming more and more suited for sleeping Counting sheep is preferable to watching Fallon..

  12. John Sheridan says:

    Craig Ferguson is the only late night show I watch. I think he’s the most intelligent and entertaining person on TV today. Thanks to Craig for 10 years of fun. Geoff, on the otherhand, should offer his services to that SNL guy (not Fallon) who is dying a slow death.

  13. bgrhu says:

    You wrote, without any sense of irony: “And if he didn’t harbor any aspirations for that bump, the Scotsman would be nearly unique among latenight hosts since Letterman gave birth to the “Late Night” franchise at NBC.”

    Yes, exactly. That’s the point. He IS unique among late night hosts. He has, for YEARS, said that he has no interest in Dave’s show. Perhaps the “network soured on him” sometime after the 30th interview in which he said HE DOESN’T WANT DAVE’S JOB. He didn’t grow up with the “late night” mystique. He never wanted to be Johnny, he never wanted to be Dave. He just wanted to do his own thing, which he’s done, beautifully, for ten years. He’s also said, often, that he didn’t see himself doing his show forever, and that he would leave before he started to hate it. All of which is exactly what he explained, both on this show, and with his interview with your fellow Variety reporter, Cynthia Littleton.

    So well done! Congrats for placing yourself square in the middle of the “informed entertainment press” the he so soundly mocked.

  14. Skew says:

    I’m totally and completely bummed. At the end of the day, or the beginning of one, depending on ones outlook on such things, I could count on the fact he would have me snot slinging laughing till tears ran. And that’s not a bad way to end, or start, ones day. Craig: Where ever you go what ever you do, make sure you sell Netflix the rights to your late night show. Re runs are better then no runs at all.
    Totally and Completely Bummed.

  15. Hope says:

    I am kind of upset that every single article is making it sound like he wanted the Letterman time slot. In the past, on his shows he has said that he did not really want the time slot. I think it isn’t so much CBS souring on him but him souring on CBS, he wants to be himself and he can’t do that on CBS.

  16. DPCeleb says:

    I totally think this is Craig’s decision. As someone who has DVR’d this show since his tryout period, I believe he would never be happy doing an 11:30 PM straight up talk show. He couldn’t get away with half the stuff he does at 12:37 AM. That is also why his is the only talk show I’ve ever watched regardless of guests (a necessity since he has a stable of regulars I’m tired of seeing). I never tire of Craig however, and think he is too talented to sit behind a desk for the rest of his life. I hope he does more acting and writing (love his books) as well as producing, stand up, etc. He is not a Hollywood hack and I applaud his decision to leave. Ten years and a Peabody Award are quite an accomplishment for this Scottish immigrant / American citizen. I will watch him whatever he does.

  17. Young says:

    Did you ever really watch this show — except for research on this glorified dalliance with a crystal ball? “It seems” — that this is just what you ‘expect’ the truth to be, not actually what it is… Sorry Dude, but if you were a real watcher — and a follower of Craig, you would understand HIS decision… this is something creative people do — look for new challenges and new ways to reinvent themselves — not just suck on the teet of mediocrity for the sake of a paycheck… Me thinks ’tis time you found other work, you are sounding like a hack.

  18. Sean Herriott says:

    I think Jimmy Fallon is the late-night bastion of silliness, at least as this article defines it. He plays frat-party drinking games with his guests. He’s brilliant in many ways and a great choice for “The Tonight Show,” but for sheer, pointless, juvenile humor, he’s way ahead of anyone else on late night TV. Ferguson got a talking robot skeleton because he couldn’t afford a real sidekick; he’s doing a talk show and making fun of the genre at the same time. In terms of “silliness,” I’d much rather watch one of Ferguson’s stuff-animal musical numbers, his pantomime horse, or pointless parades of staffers–all of which both celebrate and deconstruct the genre–than watch Jimmy Fallon play giant beer pong with a celebrity. I’m sorry to see him go, and I hope the main consideration for his replacement is not that he can be Fallon’s replacement in 20 years.

  19. Ferguson was not “just plain silly.” He was lovely, witty, touching, surprising, warm, and always compulsively watchable. I am not a late-night fan, but I always enjoyed Ferguson. Sad to see him go.

  20. Chatmal says:

    I’ve been watching Craig for a few years now, lately most nights. I guess I’ve seen the clues that he was getting tired of the drill of a nightly show – it’s gotten much sillier over time and I could see that not all the jokes were full on jokes about doing the show. I’ve enjoyed his more edgy, naughty humor so much! I feel as if I know him better than I probably do and I knew instinctively he wouldn’t be happy at 11:30. But this retirement or quitting still caught me off guard! So many changes to late night TV in the same year! It’s a shame really…. I may have to learn to go to bed at a reasonable time!

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