Stephen Colbert and James Corden finally have a good reason to get out of the house.
Both late-night hosts are slated to return to their home studios next week, according to ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish, in a bid to restore CBS’ two mainstay late-night programs to some sense of normalcy amid the effects the coronavirus pandemic has had on production. Bakish revealed the plans during a call with investors Thursday after the large media conglomerate reported its second-quarter earnings.
But the shows will still look different from what fans have come to expect. Neither program will include a live, in-studio audience, Bakish said. Colbert recently told viewers he would start to hold forth from a locale other than his house, where he has led “Late Show” for about four months. “When we return, I won’t be in the Ed Sullivan Theater, but I also won’t be sleeping where I work.” Corden has hosted his “Late Late Show” from his garage, which has been upgraded for TV production.
A spokesperson for “Late Show” declined to add more details. Corden’s “Late Late Show” will have a “new look,” said Ben Winston and Rob Crabbe, the program’s co-executive producers. “We are so excited to be back in our new look set on studio 56 at Television City and cannot wait to be making new shows staring Monday. There is nothing more important to us than the health and safety of our team, so seeing our crew safely back together again has been worth all the work and planning to get us to this point,” they said in a statement.
The CBS late-night duo follow other contemporaries who are trying to trade in “at home” production for some of the regular trappings of wee-hours TV. Conan O’Brien has moved his “Conan” on TBS to a small Los Angeles-area theater, and NBC’s Jimmy Fallon has brought his “Tonight Show” back to NBC’s 30 Rockefeller Plaza headquarters in New York, albeit in a different studio than the one that normally houses the program.
Getting back to some sense of business as usual is probably the best thing for the business of the genre. Corden’s program, for example, generates revenue from more than just the usual TV elements, “Late Late Show” executive producer Ben Winston told Variety in June. ” “Ultimately, the way we are making the show right now doesn’t fully give the network the amount of revenue we usually do,” he said. “It’s not just the commercials that run at 12:37 that allow us to get to a profit. It’s about the spinoffs we have from our segments, or the billions of hits on YouTube, or the product placements in our show at the bar or within a sketch.”
All of TV’s late-night programs had to devise workarounds on the fly earlier this year as the pandemic forced them to scuttle producing the show from their home theaters. If Fallon’s “Tonight” is an indicator, CBS viewers can probably expect the hosts to hold forth with limited crew, some smattering of musical help on the scene, and guests who continue to visit through the help of videoconferencing technology.