Anyone remember the Chevy Chase Show?
That’s what I kept flashing back to while watching Stephen Colbert channel a sleazy used car salesman as his new TV persona. That first episode of The Chevy Chase Show was packed with fans who laughed at every gag the SNL alum tossed out, much as the crowd here hooted and hollered and chanted Stephen Stephen Stephen!
This was the first episode, so I can cut Stephen some slack, but not much. The Late Show set has been remodeled to resemble the set for The Dean Martin Show, and, need I say, that Stephen Colbert is no Dean Martin? I’m not a hip and trendy kind of guy, so I have no idea who his house band is or if they have any claim to fame. I had never heard of The Roots, either.
The new Late Show started off with a couple of dud bits. First off we saw Stephen and random strangers singing the Star Spangled Banner, the kind of thing we might expect the Stephen Colbert from The Colbert Report to do. So that joke was on us, since he isn’t playing that Colbert here. Then he had a shockingly unfunny bit where the Head of CBS sits in the audience with a level to change the program over to The Mentalist if he doesn’t like Stephen. This was followed by an unfunny monologue, which he followed by sitting behind his new desk-craved from one tree-and whines about how hard it is to stand up for three minutes.
We eventually get to first guest George Clooney and the first thing Stephen says to him is thanks for coming as your evil twin. The scripted bit with George is a skit that makes fun of Tom Cruise for doing his own stunts. Really? Are you going to have every actor make fun of another actor? How about Tom comes on and compares the Box Office for Mission Impossible vs the Box Office for Tomorrowland?
Then Stephen gives George a wedding present. George laughs when he sees it’s in a Tiffany’s box. He is clearly expecting a joke or a gag gift of some kind. Instead, he finds an actual gift from Tiffany’s. A $245 paper weight. Stephen says well, yeah, I’m working for a real network now, I can afford to shop at Tiffany’s. Yeah, fuck you Comedy Network who only gave me my entire career.
The Colbert Report and Last Night This Week are basically knock offs of The Daily Show. A guy sits behind a desk and shows news clips while making fun of them. This works very well for a thirty minute show with no budget. It was jarring to see it done on The Last Show. Leno and Letterman and, well, everyone else, managed to do their own material for the bulk of their shows.
What Stephen Colbert’s Late Show was a knock off of was The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson. One of his standing bits was a CBS Censor bleeping him. Colbert had a CBS official switching to The Mentalist. Craig had a talking skeleton. Stephen has a moaning skull. Craig’s set had all kinds of fun odds and ends. Stephen’s set had a lot of odds and ends that are desperately trying to be fun. One of Craig’s standing bits was a moment of Akward Silence. Stephen and George had a very awkward few moments of silence.
Even with the audience packed with Stephen Colbert lovers, there were several gags that fell totally flat and were greeted with silence. These moments stunned Colbert, but his new persona of an ever smiling moron just moved on.
The show ended with a bevy of special guest musicians, only one of which I recognize. And that one was Buddy Guy looking as if he was in a coma and had no idea where he was or what he was doing. This was a bit that desperately need subtitles to let us know who they were.
His interview with Jeb Bush was also less than inspired. He asked a couple of questions that everyone has already asked and did a bit of clowning that didn’t seem appropriate with someone who may be the next President of the United Stated. Clearly Jed and George were not sure what to make of this Stephen Colbert. I’m not sure what to make of him either.
For years I watched the Leno Monologue and then switched over and watched the Letterman Top Ten. I don’t see anything similar happening with the current crop of Late Night hosts.