Colbert is back!
On the night of Tuesday September 8, 2015, we witnessed television history when Stephen Colbert made “Hello, nation!” his first words as the new host of The Late Show. I was able to watch the show live, being in Toronto and sharing the same time zone as New York City.
As an strong advocate for Team Colbert, I was anticipating what everyone else was also looking forward to — the real Stephen Colbert.
But all that aside, The Late Show revealed his true on screen personality — something that he had wanted for a long time, especially after being taken hostage with his self-righteous, meglomaniac host character of The Colbert Report.
The first show was a great start because it showed that the new host was the same charming Stephen Colbert that endeared him to his audience and encouraged the move to CBS in the first place.
The new desk is a slight reminder of his old one at The Colbert Report, a very accentuated letter ‘C’ for Colbert. The current one is a polished sleek ‘C.’
My favourite part of the show was the beginning, when a baseball umpire walked from the left side of the screen and stood beside Stephen Colbert as the host started singing “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Less than a minute or so later, the umpire removed his face mask and it was Jon Stewart who declared “Play ball!” It was a beautiful and sentimental way to kick off his best friend’s Late Show era.
The contents of the show contained lots of funny, topical jabs at pop culture. However, there was plenty of needless promotion, especially the Sabra Hummus product placement. Now, I can understand the financial benefits of advertising, but seriously, I don’t think anyone wants to go through the ordeal of an eight-minute commercial during a highly anticipated debut show.
Back in early June, Colbert quipped that he goes to bed praying that Donald Trump will still be relevant when he comes on air in September, and his wishes have come true. Colbert binged on Trump and had a wonderful metaphor of the media’s obsession with Trump. One of the highlight jabs was when he compared the Trump mania to eating Oreos — delicious, but really unhealthy in the end.
His line up for the first night was a weird take on a late night convention. George Clooney, a movie star with no movie to promote, and Jeb Bush, a Republican presidential candidate. There has been talk that booking Jeb Bush was a move to affirm that he was not going to be yet another liberal late night TV host bashing conservatives for cheap laughs. I think he would have won over television critics if he booked Donald Trump for his first show — too bad Jimmy Fallon got Trump first.
In classic extravagant Colbert style, the show ended with a stack of musically gifted individuals. His band leader, Jon Batiste, was joined by Mavis Staples, Susan Tedeschi, Alabama Shakes’ Brittany Howard, Paul Janeway, Aloe Blacc, Derek Trucks, Buddy Guy, Ben Folds, and Beirut members Ben Lanz, Kyle Resnick, and Zach Condon. Colbert even joined in to show off his vocal pipes.
How successful will his tenure be as host of The Late Show? I think it will primarily depend on the viewers and how much sophistication, politics, and edginess they want in their late night TV meal.