CBS will replace the quirky Craig Ferguson in its post-midnight “Late Late Show” with British actor James Corden, in what looks to be the last – at least for now – of a major series of talent shifts in wee-hours programming set off in large part by David Letterman’s decision to leave his CBS roost some time next year.
In doing so, CBS is likely hoping the new host’s experience in British TV and Broadway will help expand the appeal of “The Late Late Show” despite competition. On NBC, “Late Night with Seth Meyers” gets a heady lead-in from the new “Tonight,” helmed by Jimmy Fallon, and also enjoys a wide level of recognition from the host’s years on “Saturday Night Live.” Both have helped his program win move viewers overall and more in the advertiser-coveted 18-to-49 demographic than “Late Late Show.” On ABC, “Nightline” has also often outmaneuvered its CBS counterpart in its first half hour.
“James Corden is a rare entertainment force who combines irresistible charm, warmth and originality with a diverse range of creative instincts and performance talent,” said Nina Tassler, Chairman, CBS Entertainment, in a prepared statement. “He is the ultimate multi-hyphenate – a writer, creator and performer who is loved and respected in every medium he touches, including theater, comedy, music, film and television. James is already a big star in the UK and he’s wowed American audiences on Broadway; we’re very excited to introduce his considerable and very unique talents to our network television audience on a daily basis.”
Corden will take over the program in 2015, CBS said, without offering a firm starting date. Information on the creative elements of the program, production staff and location will be determined and announced at a later time.
Corden was the co-creator of U.K. sitcom “Gavin & Stacey,” about a long-distance romantic relationship, which ran for three cycles over 20 episodes. He won a BAFTA Television Award for Best Comedy Performance for his effort as one of the show’s co-stars. Corden, whose middle name is Kimberley, was also one of the forces behind the ill-fated sketch show “Horne and Corden,” which aired for a little while in 2009.He is also one of the creators behind “The Wrong Mans,” a comedic series about two regular guys who get caught up in a web of intrigue and conspiracy, that has been available on both the BBC and Hulu.
Yet it is the theater, perhaps, that has made him better known to global audiences. In 2011 and 2012, he starred in the play “One Man, Two Guvnors” and went from the National Theatre to the West End to Broadway, winning the 2012 Tony for “Best Actor in a Play.”
He has become active on the movie screen. Corden is starring opposite Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo in “Begin Again,” which is in theaters now, and will star opposite Meryl Streep, Johnny Depp and Emily Blunt in the highly anticipated feature film “Into the Woods,” which hits theaters in December.
“I can’t describe how thrilled and honoured I am to be taking over from the brilliant Craig Ferguson,” said Corden, in a statement. “To be asked to host such a prestigious show on America’s #1 network is hugely exciting. I can’t wait to get started, and will do my very best to make a show America will enjoy.”
The 36-year-old’s move into the CBS program looks to cap off a series of late-night checker jumps made in the wake of David Letterman’s announcement in April that he would step down from CBS’ “Late Show” in 2015, ending a late-night career that has lasted 33 years across two shows at two different networks.
To fill Letterman’s shows, CBS tapped Stephen Colbert, leaving his 11:30 p.m. “Colbert Report” slot open on Comedy Central. The Viacom cabler has named Larry Wilmore, a comedian and showrunner long associated with “The Daily Show” to replace Colbert with a new program, “The Minority Report.” Craig Ferguson announced in April that he would step down from “The Late Late Show” in December when his contract expires after nearly a decade as David Letterman’s companion in the 12:35 a.m. slot. In an unrelated move, +Chelsea Handler recently wrapped her “Chelsea Lately” show on NBCUniversal’s E! after holding forth there for seven years.
CBS is sticking with a strategy that has worked well in late-night TV’s “second shift,” or the hour that comes after the better-watched programs that run just after 11:30 p.m. Conan O’Brien was largely unknown to the general public when he took over NBC’s “Late Night” from Letterman in 1993, but grew quickly into the role.
Corden will be the fourth person to sit in the “Late Late Show” chair. The show was originally hosted by Tom Snyder when Letterman’s Worlwide Pants production company launched the program in 1998. Craig Kilborn replaced him in 1999, and Ferguson took the seat in 2005. Ownership of the program is transferring to CBS with Corden’s debut.