Well, this was inevitable. Craig Ferguson will leave Late Late Show when his contract with CBS expires at the end of this year. Ferguson, who succeeded Craig Kilborn on Late Late Show in 2005, announced to his studio audience, “CBS and I are not getting divorced, we are ‘consciously uncoupling,’ but we will still spend holidays together and share custody of the fake horse and robot skeleton, both of whom we love very much.”
The Scottish comedian was one of many names considered by the news media to inherit Late Show when David Letterman announced his upcoming retirement earlier this month. CBS ended up picking Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert to take over the 11:30 slot at an undetermined date in 2015. Word got out that Ferguson has a “Prince of Wales” clause in his contract that grants him first rights to take over Late Show, or else be paid a hefty penalty by CBS. Although, the comedian seemed to harbor no hard feelings, being one of the first to jump to Twitter to congratulate Colbert.
Comedy Central still hasn’t announced what they’ll be doing with their 11:30 spot soon to be vacated by The Colbert Report. They could stretch The Daily Show with Jon Stewart to a full hour, allowing for more rants, sketches,and longer interviews. They could move Chris Hardwick’s @midnight to 11:30, which would cause many jokes about the title, or even move Jon up a half-hour to compete with his dear friend Stephen (although extremely unlikely). Had all of this gone down eight months ago, Comedy Central would have probably jumped at the chance to give John Oliver his own show, but he was quickly snatched up by HBO in November to start Last Week Tonight.
While on the red carpet at the American Comedy Awards on Saturday, Daily Show correspondent Jason Jones told Laughspin, “I would love, because the late night shows are just dotted with sausages, I would love to see a woman in that position.” Standing next to his wife, comedian and fellow Daily Show correspondent Samantha Bee, he continues, “If I only knew one funny woman. I honestly can’t think of one!” With two new slots open, a lot of names will be flying around in the coming weeks.
The late night landscape at CBS is changing drastically in several ways. One of David Letterman’s outstanding accomplishments was owning his show under his Worldwide Pants production company (which also owns Late Late Show). He answered to essentially no one and put whatever he wanted on air. During the last contract renewal, CBS was granted a part-ownership of the program and when he leaves, the network will own it entirely. Stephen Colbert is a huge name, but he will certainly not get the same leeway on CBS as he did at Comedy Central with The Colbert Report. Also, as it delves further into digital integration, late night is skewing to the younger more advertising-friendly demographic. Letterman’s replacement is 17 years younger than him. Jimmy Fallon, who famously took over The Tonight Show at NBC earlier this year, is 24 years younger than his predecessor. Ferguson turns 52 in May. Whoever inherits Late Late Show will be up against Late Night with Seth Meyers‘ 40-year old host at 12:30. CBS will surely be on the hunt for someone hip, edgy, young and web-savvy.
One thing that didn’t change in the late night landscape was what the host looks like. Many were disappointed that CBS chose another straight white middle-aged average-sized male to host Late Show. Even other networks have done the same in the last few years: Conan O’Brien and Pete Holmes at TBS and Hardwick at Comedy Central. Maybe CBS knew that 12:30 was going to open up, a time slot where bigger “risks” can be taken (if hiring someone of a different gender or race is still considered a “risk” in 2014).
Ellen DeGeneres, Chris Rock, and Louis C.K. topped many Letterman successor lists. Chelsea Handler teased a photo on Twitter earlier this month of her with development papers from CBS, making many people on the Internet lose their minds. However, CBS publicly stated, “There are no discussions with Chelsea Handler regarding the network’s 12:30 late night broadcast.” The Chelsea Lately host will leave E! when her contract expires and reports have surfaced that she is “very close” to signing a deal with Netflix, although she denies that’s the case. If she already knew that CBS might be an option, and she leaked word about Netflix’s serious interest to lure CBS into giving her the Late Late Show, it would be a devious scheme on par with House of Cards.
Craig Ferguson may be leaving CBS but he certainly won’t be out of a job. In addition to touring as a veteran stand-up comedian, he will host syndicated game show Celebrity Name Game starting this fall. His Green Mountain West Inc. production company has been selling late-night after-shows to the Discovery Network, such as Shark After Dark and Naked After Dark, as well as the still-hostless I F-ing Love Science series. Combined with his CBS payout, no tears will need to be shed for Ferguson’s wallet. When you’re that talented, you can always find a job.
CBS CEO Leslie Moonves will be showing off two new shiny toys to potential advertisers at this year’s upfronts presentation. Stephen Colbert has proven successful on cable for over a decade and everyone is excited to see what he can do on network television. Moonves won’t have to go through too much growing pains with his new 11:30 host. There’s at least a million people he knows will already be watching him at the same time, just in a different place. His other new plaything has yet to be determined, but the toy store has plenty of hilarious and talented comedians on sale.