An Appreciation of “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson”

As a Stephen Colbert fan, I was very happy to learn that Colbert will be the new host of The Late Show with David Letterman when Letterman retires in 2015. However, I was considerably less happy to learn that Craig Ferguson – who once was rumoured to be next in line for the hosting job on Letterman’s show – will be leaving The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson in December of this year. (Apparently he has a new gig as a game show host starting this fall.)

I am a big fan of Ferguson and of The Late Late Show. And so is John Doyle, the TV critic for Toronto’s Globe and Mail newspaper. Doyle wrote a column that pretty much nails all the reasons why Ferguson is such a great hostHe’s funny – often weirdly, absurdly funny (if you don’t think a pantomime horse or a robot skeleton sidekick or surreal karaoke opening numbers are inherently funny, this is not the show for you). He’s genuine – not smarmy, fake “I love you” genuine; instead, he treats his audience like intelligent people, he trusts them to go along with what he’s doing, and he’s honest about how he feels. He’s smart and articulate. And his guests are not just mindlessly pimping their movie, TV show, book, or record; they’re people that he likes and that he thinks are interesting, which leads to some great interviews/extended conversations.

Here are some of my favourite moments from the show. I hope these videos show why the end of The Late Late Show is a real loss for smart, thoughtful television.

The “cold open” set to the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band’s Look Out There’s a Monster Coming:

Ferguson’s monologue after the Boston Marathon bombings:

Ferguson interviews Stephen Fry, for almost the entire episode. What other late night talk show would do an interview this long?

Ferguson eulogizes his father:

and his mother:

Ferguson interviews Jim Parsons from The Big Bang Theory:

Ferguson defends Britney Spears because of his own history of out-of-control behaviour while he was an alcoholic. (He also discusses this part of his life in his very honest and engaging autobiography, American on Purpose.)

The “cold open” set to Duran Duran’s cover of Grandmaster Flash’s White Lines:

Hosting a TV game show worked out pretty well for Ferguson’s former sitcom colleague Drew Carey, but I’m having trouble imagining how Ferguson’s wit and inventiveness can flourish within the structure and boundaries of the game show format. I hope it will, but I’m not convinced of that just yet. So I’ll watch The Late Late Show’s last remaining months with extra attention – and, yes, with a little sadness too.  And I hope that Ferguson knows how much his audience appreciates his creating and delivering such a different, special, and consistently entertaining show. Thank you, Craig.

 

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