In a preview for an upcoming interview with Tom Brokaw, David Letterman talked about his feelings on Late Night television since he left the medium, and it’s disappointing to realize that they’re pretty much the same feelings most of us seem to have. When asked if he misses working in late night, he gives an immediate “No.”
It’s interesting, I thought for sure I would. And then, the first day of Stephen’s show when he went on the air, an energy left me and I felt like, “You know, that’s not my problem anymore.” And I’ve kind of felt that way ever since.
That is a harsh burn, not just to the genre, but to Colbert specifically. But is he wrong? I count myself among those who were SO EXCITED for Colbert’s move to network TV. We knew he wasn’t going to keep his Colbert Report character going, but I think most of us were expecting some teeth, or something worth watching, something in any way exciting. But his Late Show is not that.
There’s a really great piece up on Uproxx today about everything Colbert is lacking in his new gig. He seems so out of place in this sea of quirky Fallon games and actual political pundits disguised as comedians (like Oliver and even Kimmel), and Colbert is trying to be neither. It feels like he’s trying to be as bland as possible, in an attempt to make every single potential audience member happy, which of course, is impossible.
And that’s Colbert’s biggest problem: He wants to be an all encompassing “America’s Host” when that’s not at all what Colbert is. Colbert is smart and he’s divisive and he has opinions. Yeah, I get that old line, “Republicans watch television, too,” but the world doesn’t work like that anymore. You can still “play to everyone,” but it’s in the form of what Fallon and Corden do. Stephen Colbert dancing around the stage with Skrillex just seems off - and from the body language of Colbert, I bet he knows it’s off, too.
Back to Letterman, he’s clearly not the biggest fan of Colbert, but he also seems to be just as bored with the whole landscape as we are. For starters, he sounds discouraged by the lack of diversity in these shows.
I couldn’t care less about late-night television, I’m happy for the guys— men and women— there should be more women. And I don’t know why they didn’t give my show to a woman. That would have been fine.
Now, Letterman doesn’t exactly have a legacy of female inclusion or promotion, but he’s right. That would have been fine. People would have watched. At least as many people who are still watching Colbert would have watched Samantha Bee on CBS. A female host on a major network would have been great. A non-white host would have been awesome. Basically, anything but more buttered bread would have kept our interest longer than this. Letterman says the network was “happy [he] was leaving,” but did they really think going so middle-of-the-road (and taking one of our most beloved hosts down with them in their sinkhole of mediocrity) was the answer?