For the past ten years the battle for late night television in American has been a bitter ratings battles between the two Jimmy’s – Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel – with a dose of hilarity from Conan O’Brian and David Letterman and political satire from Jon Stewart.
On 3rd April 2014 David Letterman announced his retirement from the Late Night television format with his last show being on Thursday 20th May 2015. This along with the retirements of The Late Late Show’s Craig Ferguson and The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart, has left the field wide open for some non-Americans to fill the traditional American past time of late night talk shows.
The late night talk show has been a staple in American culture for the last forty years. Its iconic format of a introductory comedic monologue from the host accompanied by the house band, followed by a sit down interviews with the stars of screen, sound and stage with the host behind a desk with a mic and ending with a exclusive performance has had audience glued to its screens for so many year. This format has been around for so long, because it works, it is familiar to audience all of ages. But is this format becoming too predictable to keep American audiences entertained?
The first non-American to join the late night gang and fill the boots of the Scottish-American host Craig Ferguson was James Corden. Announced as replacement on 8th September 2014 and premiered his first show on 23rd March 2015 with The Late Late Show.
Corden has mixed up the traditional format which was starting to become boring and repetitive. The most obvious change is that Corden comes out from behind the desk and sits next to his sofa on a swivel chair. By coming out from the desk Corden is making himself more open to not only his guests but his audience. This was a risky move in the beginning, as by breaking the ‘official format’ of talk shows could turn audiences away from the screen but evidently it did not.
Another change to the format is the interviews with celebrity guest themselves. Corden brings all his guests out at the same time: clearly influenced by The Graham Norton Show, which is starting to gain momentum on BBC America. By sitting down all his celebrity guests at the same time Corden’s interviews feel more relaxed and fun with him bouncing from guest to guest with individual questions as well as general group chats to create an overall enjoyable atmosphere. Plus this formula helps keeps those who are only one interested in one guest glued to the screen for the duration of the show.
Corden has also been dominating the online community from his very first show, which featured Tom Hanks’ filmography in seven minutes starring the man himself. Viral videos are becoming increasingly more important for Late Night, as shown by the success of Jimmy Fallon’s Lip Sync Battles which has led to its own half-hour television shows on Spike TV. In online ratings, Corden is only second to Fallon due to excellent comedic timing and inclusion of his celebrity guests in a new innovate way. For example, the inclusion of Frozen’s Josh Gad in the opening monologue using the songs of the hit-animated film. This was a smart move as it spoke to online fans of Frozen as well as the late night crowd. It was smart marketing and caused the video to go viral.
However, Corden is not the only non-American in the field. In the near future South-African born Trevor Noah will be replacing Jon Stewart in The Daily Show. Not much is known from Trevor Noah, especially in the United States as he has only featured on The Daily Show as a correspondent three times. He has had more success in the United Kingdom as a stand-up comedian featuring on 8 Out Of 10 Cats and Live At The Apollo. Noah will be the only African American on the late night rota, an important factor in American politics at the moment. Noah is being hyped as the non-white representative in a sea of white middle-class males but this leads to the question, why is there no female late night talk show host? Surely, following David Letterman’s departure as the King of Late Night the logical next step would be to have a woman take the reigns, a suggestion which Lettermen himself made. Instead the powers that be chose successful satirical pioneer Stephen Colbert.
Corden’s success was confirmed on the 6th May with the announcement of the Critics Choice Awards where Corden took one of the six coveted spots of ‘Best Talk Show’ alongside Brits Graham Norton and John Oliver for Last Week Tonight. The American’s are loving the Brits on Late Night with there innovative production styles, informal sit down chats and relaxed yet witty atmosphere. It is clear that the American public are becoming bored of the traditional and over used formats and looking for change in the form which sees Corden, Oliver and Noah leading the pack.
The Late Late show with James Corden is aired on CBS.