Craig Ferguson has hosted the Late, Late Show, which comes on after The Late Show with David Letterman for the last decade. In case you didn’t know, that show comes on at 12:30 p.m., when most people in the world are asleep. And yet, Ferguson has a rabid following, which anyone who has slighted Craig Ferguson on the Internet in the least has found out when his fans all came out screaming for blood. And who can blame them? Ferguson is a good guy. He does his job, and he does it well, and he never makes waves. He’s geeky. He’s affable. He’s likable as hell, and he’s actually a great interviewer, to boot. (The love of Doctor Who certainly doesn’t hurt, either.)
But because he doesn’t create a lot of drama, and because he isn’t as well versed in social media as Fallon or Kimmel, and because he’s not from Saturday Night Live, and because his ratings aren’t quite as good as his timeslot competitor (who is new, and who is also receiving a bounce from Fallon’s huge numbers), CBS is eyeing a replacement for Ferguson when his contract runs out next year.
From a business standpoint, I get it. Loyalty and likability only get you so far, and at a certain point, the bottom line matters more. It’s unfortunate for Ferguson, although the millions of dollars he is contractually due because CBS didn’t choose him to succeed Letterman should erase some of the sting.
But here’s what I don’t get: Why is Craig Ferguson being treated like a guy at a party standing next to two guys talking shit about him as though he’s not in the room? “Hey! I’m right here! I can hear everything you’re saying!”
Because that’s what it feels like right now. CBS and Les Moonves have made it fairly clear that they’re looking to make a change, and that people like Chelsea Handler are on the short list of potential replacements, but it almost feels like no one has spoken to Ferguson about it. “Hey! That’s my job you’re talking about! Does anyone want to maybe have a conversation with me before you trot out my replacement?” And is Chelsea Handler being sly about her candidacy? NO. She’s basically rubbing Craig Ferguson’s nose in it.
Though at one point he was considered the frontrunner to replace Letterman, Ferguson has been nothing but gracious toward Stephen Colbert, just as he was toward Seth Meyers, and Jimmy Fallon when they landed their shows. He didn’t make a stink. He didn’t raise a ruckus. He didn’t use back channels or social media to voice his complaints. He didn’t publicly lobby on his own behalf. He just goes out and does his show every night, thankful that — for a little while longer, at least — he has a job. He feels blessed to have what he’s had already. Maybe the ratings aren’t exactly where you’d like them to be, but isn’t he exactly the kind of guy you want in an employee?
If Chelsea Handler succeeds Craig Ferguson next year, the ratings are probably going to bounce. CBS will probably make more money. And every time Chelsea Handler starts a feud with another celebrity, or bad mouths Angelina Jolie, or gets in a pissing match on Twitter, her ratings will shoot up. But CBS will also have to put out another fire, and though the attention may have gained her two new viewers, she’ll have alienated one. I guess I just wonder: Is the headache worth it? Are a few million dollars worth losing a genuinely good, reliable guy who you never have to worry is going to upset someone?
Maybe it is worth it. Maybe it isn’t. I don’t know. I just wish that Craig Ferguson were a part of the conversation, instead of being sidelined. Give the man that much respect.