CBS wants to cut back on late-night talk and play up the games in the wee hours of the morning.
CBS is expected to replace its long-running “Late Late Show” after a 28-year run with a reboot of the Comedy Central game show “@midnight,” according to a person familiar with the matter, in a maneuver that would cut costs and also revive a programming concept controlled by the network’s’ parent company, Paramount Global.
A CBS spokesman declined to comment on the network’s plans, which would mark the second time the network has raided Comedy Central to stock its late-night grid. Stephen Colbert jumped from Comedy Central to CBS in 2015. Deadline previously reported
Using “@midnight” would trim some of the frills in CBS’ post-“Late Show” slot, which another person familiar with the business of late-night TV suggested would eliminate tens of millions of dollars in production costs. The network is looking at its late-night schedule in an era when more fans of the shows are watching them via social-media clips and digital extensions, and the field of players is significantly larger than it was when David Letterman and Jay Leno held sway.
CBS had been considering as many as five different concepts with which it could replace Corden’s show, according to a third person familiar with recent discussions. Among those who were pitching CBS ideas were Fulwell73, the production company behind Corden’s program, and Ben Winston, one of Fulwell’s senior executives and a top producer at “Late Late Show.” Fulwell grew less interested in discussions when CBS’ plans for reductions in its production budget became better known. according to one of the people familiar with the matter.
Chris Hardwick, the original host of “@midnight,” is not believed to be in the running to host the new edition, according to one of the people familiar with discussions. CBS is said to prefer a female host, and is also pushing to make sure that talent in front of and behind the camera is diverse and hails from a range of backgrounds.
The choice of programming will certainly give insomniac viewers something new to see. In its four-year run on Comedy Central between 2013 and 2017, “@midnight” won notice for its fast pace and use of a rotating crew of comedians who would weigh in on trending social-media concepts and memes. The conversation in a single show might leap from the latest emoji from Apple to a tweet by Ted Nugent to YouTube videos of a rat hauling a piece of pizza and a squirrel drinking a milkshake.
Yet the decision is also indicative of the additional scrutiny TV executives are placing on late-night TV ideas. David Letterman’s retirement in 2015 spurred a flurry of experimentation in the daypart, with BET, TBS and HBO among those testing new concepts. These days, traditional late-night seems to be shrinking. WarnerMedia did not replace Conan O’Brien when he left his late-night TBS show in 2021. NBC did not replace comedian Lily Singh after two seasons of her 1:30 a.m. program, “A Little Late.” Comedy Central, which once boasted three daily late-night programs, now only airs one. As the traditional options shrink, however, others are taking new swings: Fox News Channel has gained some traction with an 11 p.m. panel program led by Greg Gutfeld.
CBS has been plain about its desire to replace Corden, known for sketches that often were spun off into their own programs, with something less elaborate. With its signature musical vignettes like “Crosswalk the Musical” or “Carpool Karaoke,” Corden’s program is more akin to a property that might air before midnight rather than after it. Corden and his production company, Fulwell 73, have transformed some of the program’s segments into shows for Apple TV+ and TBS.
In doing so, however, CBS is bringing the curtain down on a well-worn concept. “The Late Late Show” was originally created in the move that brought Letterman to the network from NBC in 1993. As part of that deal, CBS agreed to give the host and his production company, Worldwide Pants, ownership of not only the 11:30 p.m. “Late Show,” but also the hour that followed it. Letterman and his team originally installed Tom Snyder in the role in 1995. He was followed by Craig Kilborn and then Craig Ferguson. Interestingly, Ferguson is trying to make a late-night comeback with a syndicated series produced by Sony.