Wednesday, September 09, 2015

The first Stephen Colbert Show

This is one of those reviews where I’m more interested in what you guys think. Here’s why? After watching the first Stephen Colbert Show I checked out some reviews to see how they jibed with mine and they were totally opposite. And of course, far be it for me to tell the New York Times they’re wrong. (They’ve been known to throw my Sunday paper on the roof.)

So I’ll share my thoughts with curiosity as to whether they’re shared or singular. Please weigh in and since politics may rear its ugly head, don’t attack each other.

Ready? Here we go.

Oh wait. Not yet. First a disclaimer:

I love Stephen Colbert. I’m a huge fan. I applauded when I learned he got this gig. He’s enormously talented, is an amazing interviewer (no one has a quicker or funnier mind), and he can even sing and dance.

Now I’ll begin.

No, no. One more thing. Sorry.

He was under enormous pressure last night. The expectations were unrealistically high. There was the whole summer build-up, a big audience, and a culture that makes its mind up in 140 seconds and characters or less. Good luck feeling comfortable under those conditions. And the key to success in one of those late night shows is putting the viewers at ease.  It’s hard to do that when you have enough adrenaline coursing through your veins to lift a Buick.

Now to the review.

I thought last night’s show was the first waffle you make Sunday morning and throw away. I have high hopes for the Colbert show, but it’s going to take some time and adjustments.

Understandably, he was trying way too hard. Again, the expectations. The local CBS affiliate in Los Angeles had a countdown in the bottom corner of the screen during its 11:00 news. “Once we get through this gang war shooting we got COMEDY coming up in only 9 minutes! Now 8 minutes!”

But my big problem was he didn’t know who he wanted to be. And that’s what he’ll have to settle on and grow into. Was he the goofy guy dancing around at the beginning? A zany irreverent host with pre-taped bits? A character similar to the one he played on COMEDY CENTRAL? A political pundit? Will he be sincere or a put on? At times he was all of these. Pick one (my vote is the political pundit).

One thing about Letterman, from the day he first stepped out onto the stage for his NBC morning show he had his persona down. I’m certain Stephen will find his. But sooner rather than later.

The only time he felt relaxed and in his element was the interview with Jeb Bush. That was by far the highlight. And way better than his interview with George Clooney. That was clearly rehearsed and forced. The phony movie clips were really lame. The truth is he had nothing to ask him. Give Colbert a reason to interview someone and nobody is better or funnier.

I worry that doing a mainstream latenight talk show he’ll be saddled with too many Sofia Vergaras. That’s like asking Peter Serkin to play “Chopsticks.”

I liked the hummus commercial and some of the Donald Trump jokes, but Trump is such an easy target. Was he really worth devoting five minutes? I was hoping for something with a little more bite.  Have we forgotten Mike Huckabee already?

The few major newspaper reviews I read loved the show (and maybe you did too -- I want to know). But as I was watching I tried to imagine people who were not intimately familiar with Stephen Colbert. He may be an icon to us cool kids, but I bet there are way more people than you think who really don’t know him. Or never got that he was playing a satiric character on THE COLBERT REPORT. Based on last night, I’m not sure they were knocked out.  And winning them over is more important than winning me over. 

But to those new to the dance, I ask you not to judge based on one show (unless you loved it). Give him a chance.  This show is on five nights a week every week.  It's a work-in-progress.  Stephen Colbert is smart, incredibly funny, and he’ll figure it out. When he does he could have the best latenight show of the bunch. Of course, by then the New York Times will hate him.

Oh shit.  There goes my paper on the garage again.  

So what did you think? 

93 comments:

JW said...

You're right, Ken. It's very much a work in progress. I was surprised that the writing wasn't sharper, but I'll give them time.

My one quibble with you is that Colbert can exhibit multiple personae as long as they're legitimately him. There's no reason he can't do song-and-dance and then do a serious interview later.

Jim S said...

Have to agree with you Ken. If Colbert becomes the "smart" place to be, he'll get great guests. When Conan's writer (I forget his name) recently attacked Fallon, asking what was funny about The Tonight Show, I thought that the show wasn't so much funny as fun. Nothing wrong with that at the end of a long day. (I also liked Conan's reply that his writer should really spend his time trying to make the show he works on funny, and not complain about the kids playing on his lawn over at the Tonight Show).

As to Colbert, he's smart. He could have knocked it out of the park with Clooney. Had an interesting conversation about celebrity and using one's powers for good to fight crime. Instead, we got what you called - and I agree - forced. Craig Ferguson was funny, but where he really excelled was at the talk part of the talk show. To be fair I don't think anyone's been a master of that since Carson. If Letterman actually cared about the guest, the talk was great. If he didn't, it was painful. Leno was steady - never awful, but never really great. I don't like Kimmel, so can't comment.

But Colbert is smart. I suspect he'll be able to zero in on what work fairly fast. He's funny and shouldn't be afraid of smart.

Bill Avena said...

Cobert was great but the show would have been funnier if a stage light had fallen on Les Moonves.

Jon J said...

I really thought Moonves was going to switch to The Mentalist permanently any minute. Lots of work lies ahead. I won't sample again soon giving them plenty of time to right the ship.

B.C. Christiansen said...

I agree with ya Ken, the pressure was on and at times you saw a rare flustered Colbert (rough start when you flub the name of your own show in the monologue).

I love goofy Colbert because when he's on it's incredible. He seemed to waver between that and his more comfortable Report persona. Despite his proclaimed Letterman love and insistence on pissing off the Network, nothing was really edgy.

Not like that's a bad thing, but there's some dissonance there.

Anonymous said...

My reaction is probably a function of my age and the old idea that the late night shows should be a transition to sleep. And I know that the concept of late night TV as opiate became largely history when we began to watch programs on demand at all hours. I never watched Jon Stewart at broadcast time and I rarely missed it.

Having said that, I think it remains to be seen how Colbert's wonderfully manic style will play with an audience that is larger and more diverse than his Comedy Central tribe.

I'm not saying that being either edgy or energetic won't play with we who are approaching altecockerdom, but if they really want a substantial audience watching at the actual time the show is broadcast, they may have to slight recalibrate the tummel-meter.

It CAN be done. Nobody did edge and energy that could also be relaxing better than Dave on his first NBC late night show.

Steve

Dixon Steele said...

"I ask you not to judge based on one show "

OK, but didn't you just do that...

Richard in TX said...

The show seemed forced. Over-rehearsed. It needed to breathe.
I also had to turn down the volume during the enchanted amulet bit. That growling may have been funny (to someone) but at 1150 at night it just annoyed the hell out of me.

Many of the camera switches were clumsy, especially during the musical number. They had so many things they needed to "get in" I got whiplash.
Jon Stewart-- Exec Producer? Cha-Ching$!

Johnny Walker said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Johnny Walker said...

"But my big problem was he didn’t know who he wanted to be. And that’s what he’ll have to settle on and grow into. Was he the goofy guy dancing around at the beginning? A zany irreverent host with pre-taped bits? A character similar to the one he played on COMEDY CENTRAL? A political pundit? Will he be sincere or a put on? At times he was all of these. Pick one (my vote is the political pundit)."

Exactly this. I was really hoping for a more of a down-to-Earth Colbert to appear, not the zany character he played on The Colbert Report. When I saw him on Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, I thought he looked perfect for the role with his beard -- more grounded, less polished, more real. Not someone pushing so hard, performing their ass off. I really wanted him to take it down a notch.

To do this job for a long period of time I think you have to entertain yourself first. Anything else and two things will happen: You'll end up hating the job, and the audience will be able to tell you're miserable.

Lets hope the next waffle is more wholesome.

MikeN said...

I think if Fox dropped the syndicated shows and gave Leno a show, he would jump to #1 immediately.

tavm said...

The Donald Trump segment where he compared talking about him constantly to being addicted to Oreos was the most hilarious part of the show last night. Everything else was mostly meh. But I'll keep watching to the end of the week...

Wayne said...

I've written on many a late night show, good and bad.

Normally first talk shows even of eventual turkeys are pretty good, owing to three months work on produced pieces you can't do daily.

Colbert's first wasn't so hot. So I predict he'll eventually do great.


RP said...

I agree with you almost entirely, Ken. The Fallon cameos--mildly amusing in themselves--symbolize my misgivings about Colbert's move to CBS (and the Ed Sullivan theater): we don't need another Fallon.

We've already got a Fallon, and we've already got a plethora of late-night shows that are the Happy Fun-Time Hour of Excitement and Look at the Stars, They're Just Like You and Me! Colbert's got the intelligence and talent necessary to bring us something different (and there were a few glimpses of that last night), but I don't know if he can overcome the pressure to bring more of the same. We'll see.

Chuck R. said...

Yeah, and you didn't like Vegas either, so . . .

Les said...

I love Ken's optimism, but it sort of reminds me of what baseball managers say at the beginning of a season when they have a star player who is getting older and slumped the previous year and is now off to a bad start in April. History may say it will work itself out, but what if it doesn't. Which leaves me wondering:

What if Colbert was "it" 5-10 years ago and his time has passed? He is 51. Carson was only 37 when he started, Letterman was only 45 when he started on CBS! 35 when he started on NBC.

What if the Colbert Report "character" was what made him interesting and Colbert himself is not really that interesting? What if, as himself, he is not very good at interviewing guests?

What if Colbert is really just a political liberal who had fun making fun of conservatives and has just lost his "cover"? Will half of those who should be watching be turned off by what is now essentially naked political activism pretending to be a late night show?

What if Stephen Colbert is closer to Chevy Chase than Johnny Carson, in that he can play an amazing character, but is at his best when HE is hogging the camera and not very good when he needs to give the guest the spotlight?

We never really have known the "real" Colbert. In his time on the Daily Show, Strangers with Candy (his Chuck Noblet was great, but never even close to a real person), and Colbert Report, he was always playing a character. What if we simply do not take to the real person?

Anonymous said...

This was the show you had to do, the awkward first time to get it out of the way. He was funny and he was pressing to hard; manic doesn't play well over the long term. With opening night jitters out of the way he can settle down and we can meet the real Colbert.

And he can have more than one persona. Another glass-wearing guy named Steve Allen did both funny and smart in the same show, and did it very well.

-30-

Barefoot Billy Aloha said...

New Coke. Ack.

SarahB said...

I loved it. I agree that the George Clooney interview wasn't great. It would've been better if he had kept talking about his charity work and everything that Amal does. The Jeb Bush interview was great. And the Trump bit may have well been written for the Colbert Report but I don't think that's a bad thing. I really like Stephen Colbert and am glad that he is on my tv again.

Giovanni said...

spot on review Ken... i couldn't agree more. He will find his way...

Richard John Marcej said...

Bored.

Really, I was so bored.

Man in suit comes out and does monologue. Introduces band. Sits at desk does (a lame) bit. Interviews guest. Does lame bit with guest. And...

That's all I could take. There was nothing new here. Nothing that made me not only want to stay through the rest of the show but be sure to tune in every night. It's the same format, the same look, the same old same old that we've seen since.... I guess when Carson took over the Tonight Show in the 60's.

And the shame of it is, it'll never matter how talented or funny the host is. The network (CBS, ABC, NBC) will NEVER allow a break in this tired old format and there's no way they'd allow the host to be different or in the slight bit controversial.

Mike said...

@Wayne: I've written on many a late night show, good and bad.
I can believe that. Your comments are generally the funniest on this blog.

I've never seen US late night chat shows, but 5 hours a week seems far too much.

Steve Peresman said...

Agree - big disappointment. I only laughed at the Trump stuff - low hanging fruit. He came off as trying too hard to be high brow...in a regular guy sort of way. Much prefer Seth Meyers to all 3 1130 guys - although Fallon is like able and sincere in a good way, and Kimmel can be wickedly funny. Colbert had a chance to win the DVR challenge. Don't see it happening now.

Mike McCann said...

Ken,

Maybe your know the answer -- as a radio guy, I don't. Do you think CBS had Colbert and his production team do a few "dry run" shows, kinda like the New Haven theatrical previews of days gone by? Shows that will never see the light of day, save for a few network execs on closed circuit? Would that have helped?

Is that an idea that would work for a lively daily program, as opposed to taped or filmed sitcom where you are more likely to "fix" a scene that doesn't work.

While it's fun for a first show to be quirky, it's nice when you don't feel that far out on a limb.

Marv Wolfman said...

My thoughts were pretty much the same as yours, but then as much as I liked him on the Daily Show, when he got The Colbert Report it still took a few months before the show jelled and he looked comfortable. As you say, the expectations were impossible to reach let alone exceed, and I knew he'd disappoint because no way reality could be as good as what was inside my hopes. But he's so good. I think in two to three months of seeing how everything went he'll have ironed out most of the kinks and the show will be wonderful.

But then, truly, does anyone really care about late night entertainment shows any more?

normadesmond said...

i'd say the pressure to come out fabulous hampered things.

his performance,
like the newly decorated set,
like the 'grinning so hard it made my face hurt' band leader-

too much. everyone needs to relax.


Steve B. said...

Mike McCann: Colbert and the Late Show did a handful of test shows last week, full rehearsals with guests and audience, to get the kinks out.

Reports say there were numerous technical glitches during taping, and entire parts of the Bush interview and the closing song needed to be re-shot. The show felt like it - it seemed chopped up and non-cohesive. CBS didn't help matters by pushing the normal commercial load, taking away more of the show's momentum and making it seem to go on forever.

I feel like this first show was an overstuffed anomaly. Looking forward to the first regular show tonight. But it really does make me appreciate the best first episode of a talk show I've seen - "Late Show with David Letterman." It really makes me recognize how wonderfully Dave handled that transition.

H Johnson said...

Ken,

No worries here. I agree with everything you said. And I'll give it some to find it's groove. But I have to wonder if your @Les isn't right as well. What if after all this time watching Colbert act, we just don't dig the real guy. Kinda like a lot of people felt about Jerry Lewis. "You like my comedy?! Just wait'll you see me sing Send In The Clowns!!!) Ugh.

And George Clooney as your first guest? Talk about an empty suit. I like some of his movies well enough, but he's just not that interesting. And he was just in the stinker of the year.

But here's hoping they'll settle down and go for the hit and not swing for the fences every time.

Aloha

cd1515 said...

big Colbert fan but I'll be surprised if he succeeds in this format.
edgy and intelligent doesn't equal ratings.
sorry.
Leno was #1 by playing it down the middle and doing dumbed-down humor for middle America.
nothing wrong with that.
but that's not Colbert.
I see him either going back to the political pundit character full-time, or being canceled in 2 years.

Bryan said...

It was hit and miss. I think the miss I first noticed was the theme song. In radio, we'd say it was a "stiff"... Just brings it home that Dave had a real genius at the keyboards with Paul Shaffer. Colbert has good musicians on his stage, but it just didn't do anything for me.

As for the show, some of it was forced yes, but when Colbert got comfy it was brilliant. Perhaps now that the 1st show is in the can, he'll relax and the show will gel. Maybe they should've used more of Dave's people in the control room till the bugs get smoothed out. But honestly,the pressure had to be enormous. Lets wait a bit and see. The theater by the way looked beautiful and I still think it's where the show should come from, not some small studio with a cramped audience.

suek2001 said...

I am a Dave Letterman fan and I watched last night...
I knew he kept trying to hit all the notes..He made some..missed others but I got a trying too hard vibe...

His personality wasn't distinct enough for me to want to tune in even when it's a line up of people I don't like...

I hope he'll grow and find himself...and it cannot be said enough Paul Shaffer and the CBS Orchestra are heavily missed...

I might tune in occassionally but I miss Dave and the era of the adult late night talk show is done..the kids have taken over and made it one giant party...Colbert adds to that mix...

emily said...

I had the DVR set to record every show -- until I watched the first one.
Yup, I UNset it.
Sorry, my nerves can't handle that much hyperactivity.
Oh, and that toy band and so-called show theme left me cold.
It all served to make me realize how much I miss Letterman.

Dana King said...

I didn't unset the DVR, but I was not impressed last night, for all the reasons Ken pointed out. I made myself remember any new show like this will need to find its legs, and, again as Ken said, Colbert needs to decide what kind of show he wants it to be. (and what kind of host he wants to be.) I'll give it some time.

Dan in Missouri said...

I almost never watched The Colbert Report but I enjoyed the Late Show last night. Finally an adult back on late night TV. There were some problems. The end of the show looked chopped - but you've explained that.
I'll be a regular viewer.
Dan in Missouri

Ted said...

I'm a big fan of Mr. Colbert - I've missed him this year and it's great to have him and his writers back. The new format is fine, and one segment - the Trump / Oreo piece - was hilarious, which is all I ever expected of him on the old show. Sure, I noticed opening-night jitters, but opening night is now yesterday. STEE-PHEN!
STEE-PEHN! STEE-PHEN!

JR Smith said...

I was a Page at NBC Burbank 1977-1978 and watched a great many Tonight Shows from the back of the studio. Carson made it look so easy, but by that time, he'd gotten very comfortable. Since only the audio portion of his first show in 1962 has survived, it's difficult to know how "jittery" he looked.

Letterman seemed very comfortable and confident right from the start, although his interview skills became much better on the CBS show as he got older and spent more time behind the desk.

Colbert seemed nervous and the show seemed a bit erratic and loud to me, but as you pointed out--I think it'll all settle down once the host and crew get comfortable and get into their groove.

Cap'n Bob said...

I was underwhelmed. The monologue was lame, the bit with Clooney didn't work for me, and Colbert kept interrupting Bush, which some may say is a good thing. After that I tuned out. Oh, and the Oreo bit ran too long. Even the audience's amped up screams and hoots seemed rehearsed.

Peter said...

I think Mike Huckabee has also forgotten Mike Huckabee.

jcs said...

I wish I could weigh in but CBS blocks access to viewers outside the US. Shouldn't they be happy about all the viewers they can get and try to clear the legal issues?

Alan said...

I have to agree with Johnny Walker's comment. I too was hoping for a more real, down-to-Earth, less-polished, not-pushing-so-hard Colbert. A human being, basically. He's too cocky, clever and confident. He acts like he's his own fan club so why would he need me to be one? Take it down a notch or three.

Tom Galloway said...

In general, agreement, but a couple of other points. At least for the first two weeks, most of the shows have a good chance of being very schizoid, in that they have one performer guest (read: fluff interview) and one non-trivial guest (politician, tech CEO, author, etc.) (read: potentially interesting discussion). I'm not at all sure how that works in the long run.

The other factor may be the real problem. The Colbert Report was both entertainment and about something. It didn't necessarily hit you over the head with it, or even happen on every show, but it was entertaining commentary on the news and world. The Late Show is, with the possible exception of the interviews with those non-entertainer guests, just entertainment. Now, Colbert, even sans his faux Report persona, can be very entertaining. But is just being entertaining over an extended period enough, after he was previously considered an entertainer *and* something more significant?

James Van Hise said...

The only thing I disliked about the Colbert Report was the long self-congratulatory segment at the beginning of each show when the audience went on and on chanting his name. Last night's show did that twice! I made it through half the show before turning it off because it was just plain dull, with everything I dislike about modern talk shows. It had nothing to say. It just went through the motions. Even the humor segments fell flat, like the part with some pagan god he was sworn to. What was that all about? I'll just watch the highlights posted on line when something interesting actually happens on the show.

mdv59 said...

It seemed to me he at times he was fighting the urge to skip back into his Colbert Report persona. He even referenced "nation" at the top of the show then quickly dismissed it.

It did seem like the weight of the show paralyzed him, I never felt like he was really having fun.

I have no doubt he'll quickly find his footing and be great.

MikeK.Pa. said...

I don't think you can judge a sitcom on its pilot alone and the same applies for late night talk show. I hope that Colbert will be like Jack Paar in scheduling guests not on the regular loop of talk shows who have a different voice and not usually heard (on those night, he might want to have Foo Fighters as his musical guests). I hope he's like Carson in listening to his guests. I hope he's like Letterman in making people get off their publicists' talk points and out of their comfort zones. And I hope he's like the Jimmys (Fallon and Kimmel) in having some zaniest throughout the show. I'm OK with different personas. Wouldn't that alone set him apart from the other talk shows? Kudos to Fallon for playing along on the taped bits. Stewart looks like he's already started on his too long put-off project of building an ark. As far as the Trump jokes, he had three months' of material he needed to unload.

Anonymous said...

Mike Huckabee isn't way out in left field, he's in McCovey Cove!

Anonymous said...

Les Said:

"What if the Colbert Report "character" was what made him interesting and Colbert himself is not really that interesting? What if, as himself, he is not very good at interviewing guests?

What if Colbert is really just a political liberal who had fun making fun of conservatives and has just lost his "cover"? Will half of those who should be watching be turned off by what is now essentially naked political activism pretending to be a late night show?"

Les gets a gold star here.

Many improv actors, and even comedians fail at being themselves, since they always have, and take to the improv comedy or standup medium to make up for their dull personalities. It's not even about them being dull, it's that THEY think they're dull, and overcompensate to fill the gap by asserting a manic personae. Many borderline bipolar people do well in comedy. They learn to summon up their mania on command, and the audience loves them. They also know that if they aren't manic, they're up shit creek.

Will Farrell is a great example of being a complete dullard as himself. Dana Carvey is another. Jim Carrey is another. Nice enough guys, but putting them in a talk show format betrays why they went into comedy in the first place: to distract people from noticing they're essentially average. In their manic state, people become props to them. They don't get or appreciate nuance, or any subtle interpersonal exchanges.

Craig Ferguson, though he could be manic with the best of them, understood nuance. I think he was the best talk show host ever, aside from Carson. I'd give Ferguson the edge for being entertainingly manic, and Carson for the nuance. However, they understood having "moments" on stage. Colbert can't have that shit going on. He won't wait. And, sans his political rants cloaked in satire, I believe he suspects he's boring.

I fully agree with him.

Prediction: CBS decision-makers will be working overtime to cover their asses by propping Colbert up, but he'll slowly sink into the abyss of cancelled shows.

Entertainment is more important than shrill politics in the talk show format. Without the politics, CBS has chosen an empty chalice. The more they allow the talkshow to become a political format, the more the show will sink. The more they try to make it a show about Colbert, the more the show will sink.

If my math is correct, CBS just made an extremely high profile, and expensive mistake.

– The Watcher

flurb said...

I also remember the overwhelming critical response to "The Colbert Report" when it premiered was that it wasn't funny, would never last, he'd never keep up the persona - and finally that show ended only because Colbert wanted it to.

I once went to an expensive Broadway revival of "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum." Turned out my seat was one row in front of the cheaper seats. All the way through I kept wondering whether each joke was funny enough, or was being delivered funnily enough, for my ticket price. The pressure, though, wasn't on the show. It was on me. I didn't have a good time because I kept asking myself if I was having a good time.

I think there's a lot of people here dissing Colbert internet style - i.e. the very easy negative reaction. You can't argue with "It's not funny." It's an easy thing to say, and it makes you seem smart. David Mamet once said that an audience asks, "What?", and a critic asks, "Why?" Critics often miss the humor that the audience finds uproarious.

To me, last night's premiere was funny. I laughed out loud several times, at least as often as I laughed at Letterman. Maybe Stephen was a little excited, sure. There's a lot of pressure on him. But maybe some of the pressure was on the viewers, too - self-directed pressure.

AndrewJS said...

The Newhart show set in the Vermont inn was one of my favourite sitcoms. A few years ago I saw the first episode (pilot?) and it was terrible; nobody seemed comfortable with what they were doing. If you already like Stephen Colbert you'll probably give him time, and if you don't already like him come back in a week or two and see how it's turned out.

maxk1947 said...

I agree with you completely: way too much effort, Clooney interview was pointless, Bush interview was good (although I wish there had been time for it to go deeper), the Sabra and Oreo bits and the musical closing (all of which I liked) could have been straight out of "The Colbert Report." I think Stephen Colbert is brilliant, and the show could be a classic if he can get the mix right.

Anonymous said...

I'll watch depending on the guests. I'm tired of lame ass bits like the Oreo thing. It may have been funny but I just fast forwarded thru it. Maybe I've seen to many Jimmy Fallon bits. And could Fallon stop with the "Welcome to the Tonite show you made it" crap. Like people had to hire a Sherpa to get there or something. All that applause is to make up for the lack of actual content.

Come January 1 I'm setting the DVR for the Carson show being rerun on Antenna TV. If Johnny's reruns come close to any late night hosts ratings that will say a lot about the current crop oft hosts and their writers. Maybe I'll save some space for Chelsea Handler.

Dixon Steele said...

To be honest, Ken, while I know you need the eyeballs, there's something tacky about inviting folks to maul Colbert on his first show.

I'm sure you feel you didn't, but really, you did.

Tacky. And as a show biz regular, you should've known better.

Wade said...

Grumble, grumble. In my day, we had REAL talk show hosts, dammit. Now what channel is Steve Allen on?

Jon B. said...

Let's face it: Many of today's comments (including this one?) could have been written BEFORE the premiere.

Weren't all of the issues identified here entirely foreseeable?

My two cents: It is WAY premature to make any judgments and, in my view, it is somewhat unfair for Ken to invite criticism this early.

Neumms said...

I loved the National Anthem opening, but didn't need to see Stephen sing in the big musical number. Is he going to be Mike Douglas and favor us with songs?

The guests were both odd choices. George Clooney showed us why Letterman started two shows with Bill Murray. Bring in someone who'll take the pressure off. It's also odd to give a current candidate as big a forum as a show's premiere, and even odder that Colbert had no comeback when Bush said the one way he differs from his brother is deficit spending. Really? That's it?

The Fallon bits didn't seem funny at all, but maybe that was to remind us that Fallon isn't funny.

Colbert willl be great. It's not like his Report persona was as rigid as, say, Pee-Wee Herman or Foster Brooks. It seems like every time he's sarcastic, people will say he's falling back into character.

Mark said...

If you saw SC on Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, you know how engaging & funny he is as 'himself'. Yes, he was pressing, and yes, a few things fell flat, but his natural wit and his interviewing skills will make it an enjoyable show once he gets settled.

Jon B. said...

In response to flurb, my recollection of the initial critical response to the COLBERT REPORT's first episode is different than yours, although I concede I may be wrong.

I recall that Colbert was viewed as knocking it out of the park in grand fashion, particularly with his (apparent) invention of the term "truthiness", which captured the zeitgeist of our political times. Almost overnight, "truthiness" was everywhere, despite the fact it sprung from a small cable show.

SharoneRosen said...

I enjoyed the show. I was glad to see he hasn't entirely abandon the guy we grew to love on his old show. But it was uneven. I agree, he will find his stride. He was trying to be all things to all people. And I loved the band. I loved that they play a variety of musical styles and play them well.

D. McEwan said...

Here's what I posted about the show last night. Disclaimer, I'm a huge Colbert fan:

Well, there was much I liked about Colbert's first show, much that made me laugh. When it's been going a bit and calms down some, so that not every moment is scripted and he can have some actual spontaneity with the guests, it will be better. I had only two problems with the first show (Apart from, as I said, every single syllable being scripted) One is something he did not do, and one is a failing of my own.

His failing first episode was not asking Jeb Bush: "Now, why should anyone vote for a man who fixed the 2000 election to get his dim bulb brother the office over the man who actually won the election? Indeed, given the enormous level of blatant corruption which your criminal family has engaged in for three generations, why should you be in the White House instead of the prison cell in which you belong?"

My failing is my deep ignorance of modern musicians. Stephen promised us that the musical finale would have many exciting guests that we'd all recognize. I did not recognize one single artist in the finale. Nor, when Stephen said all their names, did I know any of those names. That's on me. It was a fun musical number.

It will get better. Shows usually take a couple months to shake down, find what works and what doesn't. The Nightly Show took like 4 months to debug and get good.

sanford said...

I didn't love it. I thought the Clooney interview was weak. Just because he had nothing to sell does not mean you could not have an interesting conversation. Not every one on Carson has something to plug. I saw an interview he did with Shelly Winters and i don't believe she had anything to plug and neither did Oliver Reed who was also on the show. I would love to see the first tonight show Carson did. Too bad they burned that one. The interview with Bush was ok. Politicians hardly ever look bad on these shows because they are not going to be asked any tough questions.

Charles H. Bryan said...

The Oreo bit was funny, and maybe a little meta-commentary on Trump mania. And I like some Dana Gould squeeze darness, so the demon making him live read an ad made me laugh.

But, honestly, the last talk show I really enjoyed was Craig Ferguson. It was always a little unhinged. Otherwise, these shows are mostly just part of the hype machine. Letterman in his prime was amazing and wicked and delightful, but later sort of turned his back on that. I don't think I watcheduch at all of his last few years. And while we all miss Johnny, let's be honest - for several years prior to the retirement run, that show was a snooze and the butt of jokes.

Ultimately, these shows could just disappear and I wouldn't miss them.

My biggest question: Why would Jeb play along with that Be More Trump is bit. Isn't that just basically affirming that Trump's more interesting?

Charles H. Bryan said...

Oh, bless you auto correct. That should be: Dana Gouldesque darkness. But Squeeze Darness is a good title for my next collection of unintentionally bad poetry.

DrBOP said...

I thought it blowed'up reeel good!

Dave Olden said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dave Olden said...

I haven't had a chance to sample the show yet, but why does Colbert have to pick one persona?

Why can't he do them all?

A one man ensemble.

Matt Celis said...

Why would I even watch this? Another late night promotional fiesta with celebrities shilling their latest wares. Late night talk shows are outdated anyway. What's the point? It's all on YouTube and various outlets. Never thought Colbert was especially funny in character. Not sure what his persona is supposed to be now aside from bland. Still I guess he's better than his competition.

Matt Celis said...

If you're that Marv Wolfman, thanks for all those wonderful comic books.

Al in PDX said...

"saddled with too many Sofia Vergaras..."
We should all have such problems.

Anonymous said...

Dixon Steele said...

"To be honest, Ken, while I know you need the eyeballs, there's something tacky about inviting folks to maul Colbert on his first show.

I'm sure you feel you didn't, but really, you did."
______________________________________________

No he didn't.

Hey, look at that! I debunked the statement you pulled out of your ass, with a statement I pulled out of MY ass!

Total fucking WIN!! And it was so easy!!!

Commenting on the internets ROCKS!

You can be the stupidest mother-fucker on this hell planet, but posting a comment on the internet, if only for a moment, makes you the smartest mother-fucker EVER!!

After I hit "publish" on this one, I'm gonna look up, and kiss the fucking sky! Life's fucking AWEsome.

– Stupid Fucking Genius

PS Trying to get verified here... Is cheesecake considered a "food," or is it "cake?"

Dave Olden said...

I haven't had a chance to sample the show yet, but why does Colbert have to pick one persona?

Why can't he do them all?

A one man ensemble.

Donald Benson said...

Worth continued observation.

"The Nightly Show" started a little wobbly, but Larry Wilmore is worth watching and they've made a few good tweaks, such as cutting the panel from an unwieldy four to a viable and usually interesting three. If there's a fault, they sometimes give the panel way too little time to make room for hit-or-miss sketches, so the show is over just as the panels are getting into substance.

Unknown said...

So disappointed, all the hype and we got a bland less than funny show. I like weird (skits) but I want them to be funny and not forced. He totally needs to figure out who he is. Wednesday show not shaping up much better. Loved Letterman but looking to Jimmy soon. SAD

Unknown said...

So disappointed, all the hype and we got a bland less than funny show. I like weird (skits) but I want them to be funny and not forced. He totally needs to figure out who he is. Wednesday show not shaping up much better. Loved Letterman but looking to Jimmy soon. SAD

myrna said...

Sorry to say, the premiere Colbert show was noisy, over-caffeinated, and not especially funny.
And the commercials seemed endless. I like Stephen Colbert and wish him success; but I'm not going to watch again this week. Hope he can figure it out.

Keith Nichols said...

Colbert should be permitted at least one preseason game. NFL teams get four a year. What I'm waiting to see is the late-night host who leaves without taking his supporting cast with him. I liked the "CBS or ches stra" and Alan Kalter and the other characters who dropped in now and then. They might help Colbert get settled in.

Anonymous said...

I read all these live blogs ahead of time, because I was anxious about the show, and was absolutely prepared for the worst, because I loved the colbert report, and everyone seemed disappointed...

and I could not stop laughing throughout the whole thing. It was amazing.

Colbert is zany. That's who he is. That's who he will always be. That's his personality. It was there on the report, if you were paying attention.

The interview with Clooney was supposed to be very awkward. That's what made it so funny.

Colbert treated jeb like a politician who had no intention of answering any serious questions, and every little morsel had to be cajoled and dragged out of him. like he when he started talking about his family to segue into jeb's family. jeb is a sheltered little boy, and that's how you treat sheltered little boys.

And yes, Ken, you totally invited all the old fogeys to come on here and whine. Honestly, anyone who would rather watch reruns of carson from before most of us were born has no business trying to understand colbert, anyway. I get it. But you, Ken...thought you were better than that....

Cheryl said...

I read all these live blogs ahead of time, because I was anxious about the show, and was absolutely prepared for the worst, because I loved the colbert report, and everyone seemed disappointed...

and I could not stop laughing throughout the whole thing. It was amazing.

Colbert is zany. That's who he is. That's who he will always be. That's his personality. It was there on the report, if you were paying attention.

The interview with Clooney was supposed to be very awkward. That's what made it so funny.

Colbert treated jeb like a politician who had no intention of answering any serious questions, and every little morsel had to be cajoled and dragged out of him. like he when he started talking about his family to segue into jeb's family. jeb is a sheltered little boy, and that's how you treat sheltered little boys.

And yes, Ken, you totally invited all the old fogeys to come on here and whine. Honestly, anyone who would rather watch reruns of carson from before most of us were born has no business trying to understand colbert, anyway. I get it. But you, Ken...thought you were better than that....

D. McEwan said...

Ken did not invite us to "Rag on" Colbert, just to give our opinions. If you chose to rag on Colbert, that's YOUR CHOICE.

It wasn't what it will become yet. Well, of course not, but I have total faith it will, because he more than proven his genius to me over the last decade. d

Sami said...

I loved the Colbert Report--I grew to like it more than the Daily Show. Having said that, over the years I have quit watching all talk shows except Stewart and Colbert and occasionally Letterman. It must be said, though, that I quit watching actor/director/celebrity interviews on the Daily Show for the last couple of years. I watched them on Colbert because I just liked watching the character say things that other interviewers don't say.

Kimmel can be funny, but he's got a mean streak at times that is uncomfortable for me to watch. Fallon is a nice guy and I enjoyed his Weekend Update segments, but he is bland and boring, but in a gentle and unoffensive way on Tonight. I watched him on Late Night a few times and it was always "SNL, SNL, SNL." I didn't think Seth Meyers was funny on Update, so I figure I won't care for him now on Late Night. Conan--his sense of humor was not mine. I liked Ferguson--interviews were good. But I got tired of his monologue and the penis jokes. He's quite long in the tooth for that, and so am I.

I stayed up late as a kid to watch Carson--just the monologue because I could not see how anyone could ever be interested in all those people just talking. I did watch the comedians. It's been a long walk around the block, but I now agree with my 12 year old self again: I don't care about celebrities. The cute thing their kid did, the fabulous vacation mishaps, or stories about home renovations gone awry. They are not just like me. I have no interest in watching them play games. At all. Ever. Even for charity. Just write a damn check quietly and move the heck on.

Because of all that, I left Regis (who used to talk about playing tennis with Trump) and Kelly before Regis left the show. I gave up on Ellen after a few shows. I didn't bother watching Colbert's new show. If something interesting happens, it'll show up in an internet headline somewhere.

I do miss Letterman. I remember seeing his morning show on my grandpa's TV. I had never seen a show like that. I tuned in off and on for Dave over the years. His sort of I-don't-care-attitude suited me the best. Sarcasm or whatever it was. I liked how he wasn't so impressed with all of it. Of all these hosts, Dave's the one I would actually like to meet.

John said...

The Clooney interview/bit was the only mis-step in my book (albeit a pretty big one). For the rest of it, I was just glad to have Colbert back, and pleased to see that much of what made him so great on the ol' Repor' is still there, even with the character excised. I'd give it an A- in context (first show, etc.) and a C+ on the whole.

John said...

Also, in response to a comment above, Colbert did *not* flub the name of the show. He's been referring to it as "The Late Show with starring Stephen Colbert" pretty much consistently throughout the podcasts. It's called "a joke".

Jim, Cheers Fan said...

I think Keith Nichols makes a good point: Letterman had a lot of recurring character types-- I'm another Alan Kalter fan-- , Biff Henderson, Lyle the Intern, Jude the producer and her deadpan scorn for Dave, all the way back to Larry Bud, Chris Elliott (has anyone ever done a better Brando?) and a bunch of others I'm forgetting. In the first couple of years of the Colber(t) Repor(t) I thought he needed a sidekick or a foil, but the show became so strong he could almost always carry two segments on his own. In this new format, it's not yet clear that he can. I think a professional comedian/actor/improv person could do more to help fill a segment than a funny hat. Elon Musk and Scarlett Johanson could have used the Colber(t) persona's huge personality to fill up the the gaps in their own-- though Scarlett had a couple of good moments.

Partisanship aside, it's a rare politician, especially one running for office, who makes a good talk show guest.

Stephen Marks said...

I didn't see it but here is my review..........pre taped opening, monologue, introduction of "greatest band in late night" which nobody has heard of, commercial, segment from desk, first guest, commercial, segment 2 (probably pretaped), commercial, thanking of "greatest band in late night" before introducing 2nd guest, thanking of David Letterman for all his help, goodbyes, credits wide shot of desk, couch and stage cameras....and over and over and over again since Jack Parr.

Greg Ehrbar said...

I remember the premiere of "Thicke of the Night". Alan Thicke made his entrance on an elaborate, multi-level set, singing and dancing and then proceeding to do and be everyone in the history of show business within the first half hour. Thicke acknowledged this by explaining to one of his guests that he (and his team) had concerns as to whether the audience would tune in and say, "Oh, THAT's all he is" and tune out. It was a strategy that did not work.

What you get with Colbert is a 51 year old with savvy and experience, not a eager-to-please newbie devoid of any edge and who follows the stas handlers. Yes, he did toe the line on his first show, sticking to the Clooney script. Clooney was there for the tune-in potential (Fallon made a point of mentioning his star guests, too). He had his family, his associates and his boss in the audience. The marketing, research, advertising departments as well as audiences and critics were staring at his every tic. This was not what he has the potential to become once he settles in. He strikes me as a performer who is a "nice fellow" to please the mainstream but oddball enough (and even nerdy enough) to endear himself to the smaller but more loyal and profitable segments of the audience.

The only thing I really didn't care for was the screaming audience. I'm getting tired of the nervous network nellies who feel that every second of every show has to have "energy" without acknowledging that true energy does not come from manufacturing screeches. Colbert's entrance was almost embarrassing, perhaps even to him. Like him, audience, love him. Don't screech like toddlers playing tag at daycare -- though it was not your fault, you were told to do that.

I had doubts about Seth Meyers success because he never seemed to open up and be himself in his other appearances, yet he does so admirably in his show, which has become my favorite. Even though he may be sincere, Fallon is becoming the poster boy for over the top sycophantic excess, which he may outgrow eventually as he is the most charismatic of the late night hosts.

Comparing Colbert's debut to Letterman or Carson's is interesting, but it must be remembered that the age of television has changed, even since the late night wars. Colbert has seasoning and intelligence. He is there because he has proven himself before and has shown skill and potential. He's not there because of a formulaic marketing plan. That alone makes him a rare bird on today's tube.

Colbert's band is fantastic, versatile enough to handle contemporary music but eclectic enough to celebrate classic R&B. I love the band. The other shows' bands are starting to sound the same.

Andy Rose said...

I hate to throw this out there so early in the game, but Colbert always seems to be a lot more effective in "just being himself" when he's playing off another human being rather than trying to read the audience. I wonder if it would be better if he had a true sidekick, his own Steve Higgins. Jon Batiste does not have a comedic background and has been almost mute on the show so far. It makes Colbert seem very alone out there.

Brian said...

I thought the show was fine, about what I would expect. I wouldn't have noticed the "forced" parts if I hadn't read this post and comments.

Canda said...

Colbert's 1000 watt personality may be difficult for a Late Night talk show, where the audience has always had a relatively relaxed, humorous person as host, who can roll with any guest. Carson was the King for that reason.

Jack Paar, for all his neurosis and intensity, was pretty loose with guests, and genuinely enjoyed them.

Yes, Conan and Kimmel can be frenetic and even slapstick, but usually that's in a segment where the audience has been told what they're about to see.

Can Stephen Colbert enjoy the banality many celebrities will bring, and not seem like he's trying too hard to be interested in something he's not?

David G. said...

I'm surprised I've not seen anyone anyplace comment on this: It looked like there were some parts edited out of the Jeb Bush interview. The shot to shot changes seemed a little abrupt, and the audio didn't quite seem to flow from cut to cut. The whole show did seem to go a little long ... which further makes me think there was several bits of trimming done on the Bush interview.

chuckcd said...

Steven Colbert has a new show?

chuckcd said...

Stephen Colbert has a new show to?

chuckcd said...

Stephen Colbert has a new show too?

D. McEwan said...

Chuckcd, it wasn't funny the first time. It's thrice as unfunny three times.

"Stephen Marks said...
I didn't see it but here is my review..........pre taped opening, monologue"


Maybe you should see shows before you review them, so you don't get it wrong on the very first thing. The show was Monologue, THEN pre-taped opening. Also, just listing show elements is not a review; it's just a list. Even your amateur snark should actually be based on accurate observation.

Molly said...

D. McEwan, you have got to be one of the nastiest, hateful people I've ever seen post here. Three generations of criminal activity, my ass.

I'd wish you misery, but it's very clear you are already a miserable, small human being. And that misery is clearly well deserved.

Unknown said...

IT has been a week, but my observations haven't changed:
-What is the theme song???? All other shows have great powerful theme songs, this, not sure what it is, maybe a it is a ring tone?
-What is the band leader playing? My son had one of those when he was 4
-Getting tired of the chanting of STEVEN, worked for his old show, now not so much
-Getting tired of the spin dancing he does at beginning
-The opening is pretty neat with the mini building and people (yes, a scene has him doing the spin dance)
-I like the opening is done after monologue, although, end of monologue he mentions the guests, but it is again done in opening
-he seems to hold himself back on interviews, I expect him to challenge responses like he did with his old show. Thought he could have pounced on Jeb and others
Thanks for reading, I guess it is a little more than my $0.02 worth. So it is a better value!