So, for my third blog (is it? Geez, work around these parts is getting way too slow…) I will pay a long overdue homage to the work accomplished by then-Scot-now-American Craig Ferguson.
If all the spin in the world was true, very late-night television would consist of Conan O’Brien and Jimmy Kimmel. But, yet, on CBS, the Late Late Show has been existing for 14 years (that’s right). Ferguson is only the third host of the Late Late Show, taking over from Craig Killborn (yeah, who?) since January 2005. Like Killborn, Ferguson is a relative unknown in the public eye, but he is familiar to some American viewers, having starred as Drew Carey’s boss in “The Drew Carey Show”. But nevermind that: his ratings have increased substantially in the pas few months against all odds, where his main competition is Jimmy Fallon over at NBC. Except that, save for The Roots, Fallon’s “Late Night” will never hold a candle to what Ferguson does, even with four times the budget.
Here’s a breakdown of the wonder of “Late Late Night”.
It may be the first post-modern late-show of History, as Ferguson is really aware of the pitfalls of late-night. He really had no resources, his show being the last broadcast in standard-def (yes! Even after Kimmel!) and he makes frequent references to that during his monologue. His monologue is stuffed with purposely lame late-night jokes. For a few weeks, he even inserted a “Late Night Octomom Joke” graphic, to cheer after a lame pun. But his 10 minutes of monologues are, for the most part, an exercise in free-wheeling and ranting about nothing. He can educate about an aspect of wildlife (he did a whole thing about Shark Week, and seems keen on all things animals), or foreign people, or just about anything. The most refreshing aspect of Craig Ferguson is his inability to stay on topic, while other hosts try hard to squeeze as much juice as they can out of the day’s news stories.
Another good example of the unpredictable aspect of the show is the intro. Visibly forced down by CBS as a way to keep viewers before the actual show starts, Ferguson didn’t seem at ease with it at first, and a lot of “I’ve got nothing” ensued. But….one day, he made the intro as a small musical, with puppets lip-synching. And ever since, he really made the segment into his own, be it a small riff on foreign members in the audience, or Brittany Murphy on a swing pushed by no-nonsense comic Steven Wright, or even dance routines to Britney Spears, the intros were a way to introduce a new audience to the show.
But the most interesting aspect is Craig Ferguson seems genuinely enthusiastic about hosting a late-night talk show, and usually gives a warm welcome to his guests, which he always seems interested in. Of course, his best guests are the ones that can adapt to his unique style of rants. So far, my personal Top would include Scots Ewan McGregor and Gerard Butler, Kristen Bell (their segments are a must-see), Stephen Wright, Eddie Izzard, Alfred Molina, and on a more serious note, Lawrence Fishburne and the wonderful interview he did with Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
I would talk some more about the “Late Late Show”, but I’ll say this. At his worst, Ferguson will still be entertaining and lively with the dullest of guests, and at his best…well, it’s moments of brilliance that become fine American television. To me, unpredictability IS addictive, and he’s the best of the three really-late-night talk-show hosts. Bar none.
Craig Ferguson is The Man. And you can quote me on that.