Inside CBS’ Bid to Bolster ‘Late Show With Stephen Colbert’

Late Show: Stephen Colbert Needs Boost
Courtesy of CBS

Stephen Colbert’s name is on the title of his program, so it’s no surprise he has a lot to do with every aspect of  CBS’ “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.” At times, however, his involvement in the show’s minutiae has become a problem — one that the host himself has lampooned on the air.

When the late-night program started last September, Colbert was not only the showrunner, he even did the voice-overs during the show intro. One sketch that aired early on featured a producer having a conversation with the host about the inner workings of the program — on stage in front of the audience. The joke was that Colbert was so busy during the day with every piece of the production that he didn’t have enough time to take on anything more. As the producer tried to engage the host, he nibbled on snacks and talked to the studio audience.

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CBS has decided Colbert needs more help. Ratings for the show still trail NBC’s “Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.” In some weeks, ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live” trumps Colbert’s efforts, particularly over the last two months, though Colbert has won more viewers season to date owing to a heavily-promoted launch.  So CBS is betting on an unorthodox maneuver: taking the executive, Chris Licht, who gave the network a boost in TV’s competitive morning-news battles and setting him out to help steady Colbert’s late-night ship as showrunner.

The move speaks to the intense competition in TV’s late-night arena. In a different era, say  one dominated by Johnny Carson, Jay Leno or David Letterman, a show could find a groove and stick with it. Viewers had limited options. In 2016, they have a near-endless torrent of late-night chatter that continues to swell. Comedy Central is trying to boost its hosts Trevor Noah and Larry Wilmore in its 11 p.m. hour, and cable outlets ranging from National Geographic Channel to Freeform are trying their hand at bespoke wee-hours entries. Netflix will join the fray with its launch of a new three-day-a-week talk show starring Chelsea Handler (though viewers could certainly watch it at times of their own choosing).

Little wonder, then, that the mainstay programs of the timeslot are ready to make big tweaks on the fly. Seth Meyers began hosting “Late Night” mere weeks after he stepped down from the “Weekend Update” chair on “Saturday Night Live” in 2014. In August of 2015, the show made a major format change, ending Meyers’ stand-up monologue in favor of a behind-the-desk delivery of jokes that put the host in a milieu viewers might find familiar, that of a newscaster or commentator. The change has stuck, and Meyers’ program has gained more buzz.

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In Licht, who will become executive producer and showrunner of “Late Show,” CBS has a feisty — and ambitious — innovator. Licht, a former radio disc jockey who helped create “Morning Joe” on MSNBC, has been instrumental in helping CBS mount a strong morning show competitor for the first time, more or less, since it canceled “Captain Kangaroo” and sent Bob Keeshan packing in 1982. Licht’s “CBS This Morning” trick could be one that serves Colbert well: peeling away some of the genre’s frillier elements in favor of a focus on hard news, breaking events and access to newsmakers.

That strategy has been what CBS had hoped would distinguish Colbert from Jimmy Fallon’s celebrity games on NBC and Jimmy Kimmel’s acerbic pranks on ABC. CBS wanted Colbert to develop into a personality viewers want to watch to get commentary on the latest political and cultural events of the day. “You want to have a show that people say, ‘I’ve got to watch Colbert tonight and see what he has to say about this,’” David Poltrack, chief research officer of CBS, told Variety in December.

Colbert has tried a lot in this vein, scoring a revealing and emotional interview with Vice President Joe Biden and a talk with Apple CEO Tim Cook. He has seemed less at ease when talking to celebrities about their latest movie, charity project or kooky anecdote. And he has seemed torn between doing some of the “fake-newscast” elements that were the base of his former program, “The Colbert Report” on Comedy Central, and some of the broader humor required of a broadcast-network late-night program that comes on after the evening news.

He has not had much outside counsel. The team in charge of “Late Show” is the team that ran “Colbert Report,” with some minor exceptions, including a producer from ABC’s “Good Morning America” and Sheryl Zelikson, a longtime staffer of David Letterman’s “Late Show” who helped coordinate music performances.  But the top producers are people with whom Colbert has worked for years.

CBS let Colbert come in and run “Late Show” himself, according to a person familiar with the situation, a move that might have raised eyebrows among rivals. Fallon was assigned a veteran of “The Daily Show” when his iteration of “Tonight” launched, and Meyers works in tandem with Mike Shoemaker, a lieutenant of the network’s late-night impresario, Lorne Michaels, who oversees both shows.  The feeling at CBS, this person said, was that Colbert had run a four-day-a-week half-hour program at Comedy Central, and had a reputation as a hands-on producer. As the buzz from the “Late Show” launch dissipated, however, the network felt it was apparent that running a hour-long program was “an enormous task,” this person said, that Colbert could not master on his own.

Among “Late Show” staffers, the view has been that the show is in its early days, said Tom Purcell, who has been Colbert’s executive producer since his days at Comedy Central. “We feel like we are finding it and learning about the space,” he told Variety during a March interview. “I think we are creating a show that fans of ours like. There’s still a launch mode. There still is definitely a feedback loop going on. We are still making adjustments.”

CBS has consistently said that Colbert’s charter is to improve on the viewership of his predecessor, David Letterman, rather than beating NBC’s “Tonight Show.” For the season to date, “Tonight Show” is averaging 3.8 million viewers in the 18-49 demo, compared to 2.94 million for Colbert and 2.43 million for Kimmel. For CBS, the transition from Letterman to Colbert was also a financial boon because the Eye now owns “Late Show” entirely, unlike its arrangement with Letterman.

But with the critical response to Colbert’s tenure to date being mixed, industry insiders were expecting some kind of changes behind the scenes on the production side. CBS identified Licht as a possible candidate for the job about a month ago, according to the person familiar with the matter, during a discussion between David Rhodes, president of CBS News and Leslie Moonves, chairman-CEO of CBS Corp.

Moonves is said to have proposed the idea of moving Licht to the late-night program. Executives at the network then suggeted the idea to Colbert, this person said. The two had dinner last week, followed by subsequent meetings, and discovered they could work together. As part of his move to late-night, Licht has been named executive vice president of special programming for CBS Corp., and will consult on various forms of content for various corporate units. CBS has been making a strong push into digital programming, including CBSN, a streaming-video newscast, and CBS All Access, a subscription video-on-demand offering that will soon include a new “Star Trek” series.

His immediate focus, however, will be Colbert, who has quickly learned that in the modern era of late-night television, no one can truly go it alone.

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  1. Till says:

    Sounds like these Trumpers are just “Good German”!

  2. Betty says:

    Stephen Colbert needs to go or tone it down. This stuff about Trump doesn’t fly with me. When he dumps on Trump he is dumping on the very people who voted Trump in office. Show some freakin’ respect or go home. Would you say or do things to dump on Obama! I doubt it. It would be racist. Shut up or get out!

  3. candy88 says:

    I dont know how hes on the air, definitely shouldnt have replaced Letterman, I have not watched it more than a couple times since Letterman, and now every time I try I hear him while about something like. what a little baby he wet his panties because the president did something he did not like thinks we going to listen to his BS. comedy is comedy but hes taking it beyond that and why do we have to watch this bs, take this douche off the air I don’t want to hear a whiner for 8 years.

  4. dooley says:

    his constant Trump bashing is getting tiresome and comes across mean.

  5. Steve says:

    Colbert should have stuck with comedy central. He’s too overbearing to let people talk. You have to have a really strong personality to get Colbert to not interrupt you. I watch it because it’s not JUST about Stephen. The guests are interesting often, as well as the guest music.

    Corden is my favorite in every way, except his voice tends to drone on at a very high pitch that tends to make my eardrums feel funny. Fallon is great but has ups and downs. You never know if you’re about to waste an hour or not with Fallon. Finally, the Daily Show is sort of a rollercoaster as well. Still waiting for Trevor to grow into it. He’s going to have to have some dryness and bitterness take hold over the years before he can really deliver the content of the Daily Show properly.

    • valerie keegan says:

      I really miss the Stephen Colbert take on the news of the day especially with the election insights that would make me laugh after listening to the awful nightly news. His comments were on target and said with such humor to take the sting out of the daily current events. I hope he returns to late night TV soon.

  6. michael powers says:

    Colbert sucks. I actually pay bills and make my lunch for the next day and wait for James Corden to come on. Colbert is too high on himself, especially now with the political race, and is nowhere as entertaining as Letterman or Carson were. If he’d keep his views to himself and let his guests talk about their deals instead of trying to pound his agenda on them it might be more entertaining. The band is alright. No Doc or Paul. In my opinion, I’d switch Colbert and Corden around. Actually, if I owned the network, I would do it in a heart beat. Corden is much more entertaining…

  7. Dr. John says:

    Mike Pence was more humorous than any guests on your show tonight!!

  8. WB says:

    Thank you Licht for taking exceptionally talented musicians with New Orleans flavor and white washing them into a bland homogenized jazz band. My family has been watching Colbert for over a decade but no more. Stephen, how did you let this happen?

  9. M. J. Tuohy says:

    When is Colbert going to get off the politics and bashing Trump and interview his not very popular guests. Wish CBS could bring David out of retirement. I am done watching this nimrod.

  10. RS says:

    Batiste has to drop the silly clothing and embarrassing routine. Really.

    • nbseer says:

      Agree on Batiste and his band. They may be great musicians but their New Orleans “happy all the time” shtick is over the top and the producers’ insistance on keeping Batiste mic hot during Colbert’s routine is annoying..

  11. Terry Wright says:

    It seems to me that the show has become dull in the last few months. I don’t tune in every night like I did when it started. A lot of the “bits” seem forced and not very funny.

  12. Paul says:

    Stephen Colbert is must watch TV. Colbert is this generations Jack Paar. Would like to see Colbert develop some regulars on his program like Parr. It was Jack Parr who made Jack Kennedy a success on TV during his campaign for President in 1960.

  13. Half the country does not want to tune in to be insulted. FTFY.

  14. astralweeks says:

    Here’s an idea, make it funny and entertaining.

  15. melody says:

    I love Stephen Colbert, but lately, he’s really “dumbed down” his show with silly slapstick humor and games – such as cartoon Donald, the pointless Friday “showdown fights” and other nonsense. If I wanted to watch juvenile humor, I’d tune into Jimmy Fallon – which I rarely do.

    I liked Stephen for his sophisticated humor and sharp wit, and for conducting interesting interviews with guests, where he wasn’t afraid to ask the tough or uncomfortable questions. All of that has gone lately. If he’s trying to compete with Fallon, it won’t work because Jimmy is the king of stupid silly high school humor – which I have no interest in watching. Jimmy’s interviews are pointless as he fawns over every single guest and tosses softball questions the entire show.

    So, I really hope Mr. Licht will help bring Colbert back to doing what he’s best at – which is smart, sharp-witted sophisticated humor – and his political musings. Please bring this back or, sadly, I won’t be watching Colbert for much longer.

  16. Chuck H says:

    I, like many, was a big fan of Stewart-Colbert on Comedy Central, and had not watched late night network TV since Letterman was on NBC. Despite some bumps, Colbert on CBS was enjoyable for me at first. Even though the celebrity bits were mostly hackneyed and he desperately tried to make a personality out of his drip of a bandleader, the desk pieces (of which there were frequently two) were fairly sharp and provided interesting commentary, and the guest list was still varied and included some guests.

    Now? Not so much. The desk pieces have become shallow, with the only political commentary being about Trump’s hair or Clinton’s fake laugh (i.e., nothing real). The guest list has been reduced to the actor-actor-musician formula. The dull bandleader, while a terrific musician, is still treated as though he were a bright light personality. Newsflash: He’s not. And Colbert himself, though a terrific talent, is featured in far too many musical duets. The moment I know Anna Kendrick is on the show, I delete it from my DVR. And Anna Kendrick is hot!

    I still have the show on DVR but I am mass deleting without watching more these days and am thisclose to removing it from my list altogether. The bottom line for me is this: Even acknowledging the limitations of the network late-night format, I had been tuning in to Colbert to see something closer to a Report/Late Night hybrid than to a clone of Fallon. I think most people new to the show prefer to see this as well. I’d assumed that the show was trying to bring new people into the daypart, not siphon off viewers from current competitive set. But if I wanted to see a show that looked like Fallon’s, I’d turn on Fallon.

    I will keep it on my DVR and (ahem) keep on eye on whether the show evolves. If it doesn’t, soon, I’m out.

  17. ROB says:

    You could start by getting rid of the train seals in the audience yelling and screaming at the opening of the show. Even pathetically calling out his name. Really?

    • Tom Anderson says:

      Yeah it’s annoying but I think within the past month the head honchos at CBS finally made Colbert muzzle the crowd and stop with those annoying STEPHEN chants that were heard nightly.

      • melody says:

        Actually, I’ve attended a couple of the shows, and CBS hired a guy to “train” and “browbeat” the audience into screaming Stephen’s name before the show starts. He makes the audience practice it over and over again before the show starts. So, this is a CBS thing – it’s not the audience.

  18. Lee Anderson says:

    I too liked the Colbert Show on Comedy Central, the Tonight show is lame.

  19. Wes Brazo says:

    If CBS would place re-runs of I Love Lucy and The Honeymooners in that time slot, it would go to number one in the ratings.

  20. Becky says:

    I watch Colbert for laughs not politico commentary.

  21. Lou Dickman says:

    The Mo Rocca pre-launch interview gave me high hopes. What was delivered was nothing like that at all. I thought that the first show was absolutely horrible. There was no break-in time for this new pair of shoes. Send them back.

  22. BillUSA says:

    Consider yourself fortunate to have watched Johnny Carson. Nothing has come close to “The Tonight Show” since he stepped away.

    • Lou Dickman says:

      In Retrospect, Johnny could be robotic and predictable but he had IT, whatever IT was.

      • Bukowski says:

        The “It” that Johnny had was no competition. And when competing shows came up he would warn potential guests of those shows that if they appeared on them he would never again have them as his guest.

  23. Connie says:

    I love Stephen but I don’t like the new show :( Its just not very funny, and I expect more from Colbert !
    I wish he would stop with the band leader, its not working. The opening monologue is a waste and the only part I like is when he sits at his desk and does the second monologue. I used to DVR it and skip to my favorite part, but I have recently walked away completely.

    With Jon Stewart gone, I hoped Colbert would fill that void, but now I may as well go to bed. Come on guys, you can do much better than this !!!

  24. Fasteddie says:

    What they need is a new host that is actually funny and also a sidekick that host can banter with not the current band leader who has no personality and comes across that he is miserable just being there, Just looks lazy.

    • Tom Anderson says:

      A new host that is actually funny is a great idea! If CBS was smart they would see if Chris Rock wants the job as he is funny and hosted a successful talk show on HBO. He would not only attract minority viewers but also anyone else who wants to see a show hosted by someone who’s actually funny!

  25. Larry Grossman says:

    Though I watched “The Colbert Report ” I don’t watch the Tonight Show with Stephen Colbert. It is totally formulaic and predictable and overly scripted and boring. What a waste of talent. I don’t even record the program for later viewing without the commercials. Get out Stephen before you drown in mediocrity and utter ennui.

    • John Mercurius says:

      I agree. Stephen Colbert was awesome on the Colbert Report but he is held back in this setting.
      These late shows are contrived 1940’s formula is old hat. Letterman, Carson, Leno – these people were not funny they were all dull. Even worse, John Batiste is a cool dresser but he can barely put a sentence together. Bring back the Colbert Report!

  26. Leftism doesn’t sell. Out of touch with America. A brown nose Democrat hack…

  27. Paul says:

    It is obvious the talented Colbert staff has not yet made the transition to BROADCASTING. A clever, cutting-edge niche show with a few million viewers (with tasty 18-34 demos) is just fine for basic-cable, Comedy Central. THIS IS…CBS. Mr. Licht is a proven innovator; he has shown he can transplant a new cerebellum, into the most mind-numbing broadcast formats. Face it – late night TV is one of those mind-numbing formats. Let Mr. Colbert be his warm, witty, self. Get him back into those Brooks Brothers suits; up the sophistication level – his core audience can obviously handle it – and guess what, so can the folks North of 45 who want to invest in a late night show, without feeling like the parade had passed them by, because they are not up on the latest comic-con obsessions.

  28. ladcrp1 says:

    Every night doesn’t need 3 separate comedy bits.

    Bring people out and talk to each other. Novel idea.

    Fake enthusiasm looks fake.

    Tell the drummer to take his god-damned hat off.

  29. planetxan says:

    Fox, ABC, NBC, PBS, and many others can all be found on Hulu. CBS? Nope. I am not going to get a subscription to a service for one or two shows. CBS needs to join the rest of the TV world, then they can make a fair judgement on their talent. As it is, I, like many people I know do not watch any CBS shows. I would watch Colbert every day if I had that option. CBS is getting greedy thinking they can force people into a separate subscription, but it is biting them, and Colbert, in the ass.

    • you don’t need a subscription to watch the newest 3 episodes on cbs.com… I do it through a VPN from Canada with no subscription when Global doesn’t update their site.

  30. Conan O’Brien could fix that

  31. TheBigBangof20thCenturyPopCulture says:

    You never know when Colbert is joking or serious. To watch him is a puzzle trying to guess his magic trick TV personality. He belongs on SNL skit comedy. Late night talk is not his stomping ground comfort zone.

  32. DLM says:

    ‘CBS wanted Colbert to develop into a personality viewers want to watch to get commentary on the latest political and cultural events of the day. “You want to have a show that people say, ‘I’ve got to watch Colbert tonight and see what he has to say about this.’
    Yes, that was called ‘The Daily Show with Jon Stewart’. Perhaps they should have tapped him for the host position.

  33. jackie kaplan says:

    They stupidly played reruns of CBS dramas when Lettermen left, letting the later’s audience get used to the competing hosts so by the time Colbert started, he lost some of Lettermen’s audience.

  34. robert curran says:

    Colbert needs to get a better bandleader, the guy cannot carry a conversation, a must in late nite. Stop trying to be cool — either you really are or you are not. Snappy jokes about politics, crime, etc. based on latest real activities. Bring in some “correspondents” like Daily Show and Colbert’s show. That requires Colbert share “face time” with other funny folks.

    • melody says:

      @Robert Curran. I agree about Jon Batiste not being the sharpest tack in the box – While he looks good, he doesn’t seem to be the brightest light. As for bringing in other “funny folks” – one of the best shows Colbert has done was the one where he interviewed Bill Maher. If you haven’t seen it, check it on youtube – it’s hilarious as they both go toe-to-toe against each other. Colbert is sharp, fast and witty – and by the end of the show, I’d be surprised if the two were still speaking to each other. It was really great – and showed that with the right guests and the right context, Colbert was doing what he does best, which is sharp, sophisticated humor.

  35. Brad says:

    Bert was never that good. Ferguson should have gotten the show….much more comedic….and to make matters worse for CBS the Brit isnt cutting it in the late late spot….

    • David4 says:

      Ferguson is a master of the talk show format, and I’m afraid probably the last of a kind. However he never wanted to get David’s spot.

  36. Perry Smith says:

    Colbert’s frequent absences from his nightly spot are frustrating and certainly do not help in building and keeping at audience. He seems to spend a fair time on vacation. It’s no surprise that abandoned viewers learn to do the same.

  37. phyllis says:

    I am one of Stephen Colbert’s ‘oldster’ fans who wants to offer an idea for his late nite show. Being as he is broadcasting from the Ed Sullivan Theater, why not feature a ‘guest appearance’ on a regular basis from Mr. Sullivan’s ghost? it would be a colorful addition to his current repitroire ! Ed, I am sure could offer some historical insights to Stephen…i’e’…revival performances from some of the ‘greats’, and perhaps some tips on how to stay on top w/ the late nite audiences.

    • Terry Wright says:

      Letterman did the Sullivan’s ghost thing when he started at CBS in 1993.

    • melody says:

      @Phyllis. Please no more juvenile sketches. Let Jimmy Fallon do the nonsense – that’s his specialty.
      Colbert needs to stop trying to compete with Fallon and return to the sharp sophisticated humor he’s known for. The Donald cartoon, the food-making guests and other pointless games with guests is just nonsense that has to go. Adding in Sullivan’s “ghost” would just accelerate the pointless juvenile humor.

      Colbert’s political commentary – and even his “confessions” sketch – are when he shines. Also, he needs to start asking the tough questions – and adding some sharp banter like he did when Bill Maher was his guest – When he does that, he’s at the top of his game. It’s what he does best. He needs to step up the sophisticated humor and lose “dumbed down” humor.

  38. Susan Lowe says:

    The new showrunner should tell Colbert to stopp attacking Hillary Clinton which he has done even to her face while fawning over Bernie Sanders and begging Joe Biden to run because he so dislikes Hillary that he can’t stand to see her chosen as the nominee let alone elected president..I gave him a second chance after he demonstrated the same animus toward her on his previous show but I’m no longer a viewer of his late night show. I like good political interviews and political comedy but I loathe unbalanced attacks on Hillary and jokes about Bill Clinton’s sexual peccadilloes. Give it a rest all you so-called comedians. It was over fifteen years ago and it’s pure laziness to keep doing variations of the same joke over and over.

  39. Alex says:

    MOVE REGGIE WATTS UP FROM THE LATE LATE SHOW!!! It is that easy people.

    • Haha Susan, I stopped watching for the opposite reason. The last few times I watched, I thought he was favoring Hil way too much.

      #GoBernie!

    • Tom Anderson says:

      While that would be a major improvement band wise, it would also kill the Late Late Show. A better option would be to move Cordens show to 11:35 and name it the Late Show and push Colbert back to 12:35 and name it the Late Late Show. Along with this change they should also kick Col,bert out of the Ed Sullivan theater as he doesn’t utilize the surroundings and move Cordens show into the theatre.

      • Fasteddie says:

        Absolutely agree with moving Corden to Late Show. He is hysterical and his band leader is hysterical. CBS must think so also as they gave him a Prime Time Special over Colbert.

  40. Ryan Miller says:

    I think the show will do very well. Especially if they cut out the nonsense interviews with celebrities and focus on politicians and authors.
    I, honestly, dont usually watch anything beyond the first 10 minutes of the show because I really dont care about the celeb gossip. I would much rather listen to his dialogue and cut his guest numbers down to 1 or 2 per show and have it be more focused on the people who run this and other countries and/or have introspective views on how it/they should be run.,
    He also needs to cut Meredith out of dialogue.. She ruins potentially good segments.
    in any case, I think that Stephen and Paul Denio are brilliant writers and have always been an outstanding team. The show will catch on. Just needs some tweeks.
    PS. Jon Batiste and stay human rock!!

  41. Shari says:

    I also noticed that he talks about his Catholicism a lot recently.. I appreciate his Catholic upbringing but he has started to sound a bit preachy for me. I can’t recall any other late night host discussing their religious beliefs that much — if at all. Then with certain guests like atheist Bill Maher, he came off as trying to sound like a Catholic who doesn’t practice the way a “good Catholic” does in one moment and then like a preachy Catholic in another. With Joel Osteen he came off as condescending toward Osteen’s beliefs. Both instances were awkward and turned me off and I am usually a big fan. Also I thought he seemed strong against some of the presidential candidates that he had on but really weak with Donald Trump. I was looking forward to watching that episode but felt like of all the candidates he had on, he pandered to Donald. So far, I give the show a C rating and the only thing that keeps it from being a D is the occasional brilliant new segment he will do. Just love his Hunger Games parody whenever a candidate would drip out.

    • melody says:

      @Shari. I respectfully disagree on just about every point you made. The fact that Colbert talks about his Catholic faith is amazing – no other comedian or late-show host dares bring up religion. Yet, he has the guts to stand up and address it head on – both the good and the bad in a humorous way. I tip my hat to him. And my favorite show was the one where he had Bill Maher as the guest. omg – it was fantastic. They both went toe-to-toe against each other, and Colbert really shined with his sharp, quick-witted banter. I sent youtube links of that show to all kinds of friends and relatives because I thought it was so funny. …. As for Osteen – Osteen handled it fine. He knew he was on a late-night show and would be subject to little shots, and I thought he handled it fine.
      ….. As for Donald Trump – if you know Colbert’s history, he has done nothing but ridicule Trump in the past, and he even mentioned that during Trump’s appearance. So, I thought he handled that interview fine.

      …. I agree with you on the Hunger Games parody – Colbert is absolutely brilliant with political commentary (as he’s always been), and that’s when he shines the most. I also like his “confessions” sketches.
      … But lately, it seems Colbert is “dumbing down” his humor with pointless games and silly nonsense – as if he’s trying to compete with Fallon – which is a mistake. Fallon is king of the high school juvenile humor, which is why I rarely watch him. Colbert needs to stay sophisticated.

  42. I love his road to the White House segments…those are always worth my time…the rest of the show needs work. Hope it works out because he really is a funny dude…still, can’t help missing Dave and Paul. I miss his sarcasm and the music of Paul and the band.

  43. Michael Norris says:

    I was a huge fan of the old show, and initially liked the new one, but it’s getting worse and worse. My suggestions:
    1. Please please please shut off Jon Batiste’s mic.
    2. Ask the band to display some dignity. They are always clowning and mugging and it looks terrible and stupid.
    3. Please stop the Letterman-aping with the walking into the camera and awkwardly chatting with planted headset-wearing staffers.
    4. More hardcore political humor. Lots more.
    5. Of course, being an 11:30 network show, it’s terrified of being edgy like the old show. Please try to recapture the edginess that Fallon absolutely isn’t.
    5. If you’re still doing “Friday Night Fights,” replace that long and unfunny segment with comedy.
    6. Stop introducing Stephen twice — once at the very beginning of the show, and again after the monolog. It’s awkward and weird.
    7. Ask the crowd not to chant STE-PHEN! This schtick was appropriate to the old show when he played an egotistical blowhard. When the crowd does this twice during a show (before and after the monolog) it’s tedious and an unnecessary waste of about one minute of show time.

    • melody says:

      @Michael.
      You hit the nail on the head – especially points 1, 4, and 5.
      Jon Batiste just doesn’t seem to be the brightest light – he doesn’t seem to be able to hold or understand a conversation. He looks good, but is just not the sharpest tack in the box.

      And yes – hardcore political humor is where Colbert shines! Bring it on. That’s my favorite part of the show – it goes downhill after that.

      Unfortunately, Colbert seems to be “dumbing down” his humor lately, with pointless ridiculous sketches, such as “Friday Night Fights” (which I now immediately turn off as soon as they start) and “cartoon Donald” which just isn’t funny. It’s as if he’s trying to compete with Fallon – who is the king of juvenile humor, which is why I rarely watch Fallon. Colbert needs to return to his sharp sophisticated wit and humor – and lose all those pointless juvenile sketches.

    • Fauth Stevens says:

      Michael. Right on point. Guess you’ve hit the reasons why I’ve given him up.

  44. Roger Novotne says:

    That is what we viewers have always wanted is someone who has intelligent conversations with intelligent guests. If I want to see the type of antics we have Sen so far, we can watch Fallon or Kimmel who do that better

  45. I never watched any of the late night programs until Stephen Colbert took over, and I have watched nearly all of them since his very first broadcast. But I agree that his hilarious “roasting” of current events is one of my favorite parts of the show.

  46. Colbert is a genius and I love him, but this is just the wrong genre for him. The clips online are great, but sitting through the actual show isn’t all that great.

    Nobody cares who I’d like to see host a late night show, but it’s none of these guys. You need someone reliable and predictable, even if it’s predictable unpredictable. And cool, calm. Anchored. It’s a cool medium, tv, at its best.

    The number one issue? All the shows are exactly the same. Every one. They are all doing Letterman. Fallon is smarmy and I can’t stand him. Kimmel is wonderful, but it’s the same warmed over Letterman schtick. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a real alternative genre type of talk show, like a Cavett-style serious conversation, or a Jack Paar-style stream of consciousness?

    The fact is, this is such a rare skill, to be able to host a daily talk show and keep people interested, and have guests love coming on. Very very few people have done this successfully. These are the folks who have succeeded, chronologically speaking: Steve Allen, Jack Paar, Johnny Carson, David Letterman, Oprah Winfrey, Rosie O’Donnell and Jon Stewart. As in, success. As in, they could have kept going on forever if they wanted to.

    Nobody else is anywhere near that good.

    The others? Cavett didn’t last, but his selection of guests was the best, but he didn’t/couldn’t last. Conan is interesting and brilliant, but not fun on a daily basis. Same with Kimmel. Ellen is a sell out without an edge, but she’s perfect for daytime. Craig Ferguson was wonderful, my favorite, but he is not for everybody. You gotta be for everybody to make this late night talk show thing work.

    At least Craig had a true conversation, not reading off the blue cards. Colbert goes under the heading “not for everybody” and frankly, he needs a different format. I grew weary of his old show too, no matter how brilliant.

    Late at night, you want to laugh and hear great chats and calm down and go to sleep. That’s hard to pull off.

    • BillUSA says:

      I would have stopped at Oprah Winfrey, but I understand you were being chronological. I’d like to add Mike Douglas who had an interesting mid-afternoon run.

    • Colin Rutheford says:

      Tom Snyder and Bob Costas both had late night shows with intimate and rewarding interviews.

  47. Colbert is often as sharp as he was on the Report, except for his guests.The Colbert Report had a constant parade of authors, politicians, and government, military and cabinet personnel, all generally related to news or current hot button issues. It was interesting and funny. The show needs a news/issues vision to break from the late night pack and holding back Colbert’s satirical genius with dull actors plugging movies holds the show back. We will see if this new hand in the production pot will help. I felt his move to CBS would pressure him to be more generic, he would end up Kimmel-ized as ABC did to Jimmy’s off the roof comedy style.

  48. Peri Gordon says:

    I would love to watch the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, but currently I stream everything through my existing subscriptions with Hulu, Amazon Prime, HBOGo, and Netflix, and I’m not going to spend the money for the CBS streaming service since there’s not much else there that I’m interested in streaming. CBS is screwing the pooch by not joining most of the other networks on Hulu, but if they don’t need the market share. Hopefully Stephen will leave when his contract is up and return to CC or move to HBO.

    • melody says:

      @Peri. I’m curious – by the time you pay separate bills for Hulu, Amazon Prime, HBOGo, Netflix and every other streaming service, aren’t you paying more than you would for cable where you could get all of that and CBS on one bill? Never really understood the cord-cutters. Sure, I get Netflix, but I still keep cable because I like watching real-time news, and some of the shows that are cable-specific. Plus, I don’t have to hunt around through countless menus to find a show as you do with all of those different streaming services.

    • Patrick says:

      This^. I love Colbert. But I’m a cord-cutter like an increasing percentage of the population. (Not to mention the coveted millenials, who don’t even watch TV.) I’m not going to pay a monthly CBS subscription just watch Stephen. Get with the new world program, CBS, and on board with Hulu, Netflix, Amazon, or someone.

  49. Jay James says:

    if he doesn’t make it on CBS could he please go back to the Colbert Report, that show was fabulous.

  50. Dawn says:

    I have several suggestions. Listen up, Late Night. We love Stephen and will likely watch no matter what, but this show needs to do the following: 1) Put less emphasis on the band. As others have commented, the dynamic is strange. Jon Batiste is encroaching on Stephen’s space, and the dialogue between them is not entertaining. 2) Stephen could use a sidekick like Jimmy Fallon has. 3) Add more political satire/humor. This is what made Stephen a star in the first place. 4) Kill the bizarre hat segment. It is not funny. 5) Keep the interesting guests that are not celebrities. 6) Keep having solid, cutting edge musical guests. 7) Stop duplicating the intro. Stephen says who is going to be on and then the intro says the same thing? Redundant. 8) Hire me as a consultant, obviously.

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