Some networks take months to examine all the angles and come up with a long-term plan to fill a timeslot or replace a departing star, but CBS prefers to pick a lane and respond quickly. So, just a week after beloved late night host David Letterman announced his intention to retire, we already have an official replacement: Stephen Colbert.
Many of the specifics such as when he’ll start and where the show will take place won’t be decided until Letterman’s exit strategy becomes a little clearer, but we do know the deal is for five years and will see Colbert directly take over for Letterman on The Late Show. That might sound obvious, but it’s actually an important distinction. The Tonight Show is a brand that’s bigger than one host, but since Letterman created The Late Show and built it up himself, it was unclear whether CBS would simply design an entirely new program and retire the name, tone and history with its departing host. Now we know they won't.
You can take a look at a portion of network president Les Moonves’ official statement below…
“David Letterman’s legacy and accomplishments are an incredible source of pride for all of us here, and today’s announcement speaks to our commitment of upholding what he established for CBS in late night.”
Colbert hasn’t announced whether or not he will continue with the conservative blowhard character he’s long played on The Colbert Report, but it’s a pretty good bet that he will not. While Letterman was definitely a liberal, he would fire off jokes at any politician or political party he felt deserved it. Perhaps more importantly, he was also willing to give credit where he felt it was due, regardless of political affiliation. In short, he may have leaned left, but it never felt like he had an agenda bigger than just being himself.
For an example, check out Letterman’s touching words about Republican Mayor Rudolph Giuliani after 9/11 below…
Late night television is a pretty broad medium. To do it correctly, you need support from a broad cross-section of Americans. Colbert definitely has the charm and personality to make that happen, but to do so, he’ll probably need to move a little bit more toward the center. He’ll also probably need to adapt to a marketplace that’s growing increasingly reliant on viral videos and quirky moments, but all of these specifics can be figured out later. For the time being, there’s nothing any of us can do but be excited and hopeful and remember some of Colbert’s greatest moments, like this interview with Letterman.