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Since September of last year, Stephen Colbert has been the sharp and razor-witted personality at the head of CBS’ The Late Show, though the series and its host haven’t been on the same level this whole time. While diehard fans have been outspoken about the show’s good qualities, the ratings haven’t been wonderful and the naysayers have also been plentiful. To help revamp things, CBS prez Les Moonves recently brought in former CBS This Morning producer as the new showrunner, with a goal of getting Colbert back to being the best performer he can be.
In what I’m sure wasn’t the most happy-go-lucky meeting, Moonves brought it to Stephen Colbert that his attention to detail on The Late Show on issues such as budgets and script approval were doing the show a disservice by taking the actor and comedian away from his own stage presence and performance. Enter Chris Licht, who gained Colbert’s approval after they met last month, according to New York Times; his transition into the job over the past few weeks has involved tightening the output from Colbert’s creative team as well as taking away other practical decision-making away from Colbert, to allow the host to focus on evolving into the best late night host he can be.
Personally, I’m a huge fan of Colbert, though often more for his absurdist humor over his political satire. The latter approach is what turned him into a TV icon of sorts on The Colbert Report, and he’s said that leaving that gig was as much about no longer wanting to divide American voters as anything else. But it’s presumably difficult for some fans to separate Colbert the man from Colbert the character, and it’s not like CBS would allow the same kind of political material that Comedy Central did on that front. And so he’ll still need to find a way to make this late night persona exclusive of everything else he’s done in his career, so that important events can still be covered without the implication that it will be undercut by leftist snark.
The changes haven’t exactly been drastic, such as changing the set to an all-steampunk motif, and if we’re lucky, we won’t even notice anything at all beyond a marked rise in enjoyment of The Late Show in the months to come. It’ll be interesting to compare an episode from this September to one from his first week on the air, to get a sense of how things have developed.
I don’t think anyone expected Stephen Colbert to immediately outshine predecessor David Letterman when the new Late Show debuted, but CBS apparently had higher goals in general. Here’s hoping the change-up works out, so that we’ll be able to watch Colbert laying down next to celebrities under the stars for years to come. And if Jon Stewart wants to hop on as a co-host, we’re cool with that, too.