When James Corden cuts ties with CBS’ “Late Late Show” next year, he may leave with more than people expected.
CBS is considering replacing Corden’s distinct program with a multi-host panel, according to three people familiar with the matter, a sign of how late-night is changing as viewers sample the best of the programs via social media rather than watching them in their wee-hours’ time slot. Corden has decided to leave “The Late Late Show” in the spring of 2023. A panel format could encompass a wide range of concepts, such as the news-roundtable program “Politically Incorrect,” which Bill Maher led on ABC late-nights between 1997 and 2002, or even the frenetic game-show stylings of “@midnight,” which aired in late night on Comedy Central between 2013 and 2017.
It’s entirely possible the replacement show may not have a live band or other trappings that have come to be expected from the format. CBS’ discussions are in early stages, these people caution, and executives at the network, part of Paramount Global, are mulling a wide range of ideas and potential personalities.
CBS declined to comment on its deliberations for “The Late Late Show,” which launched in 1995 and has been hosted over the years by Tom Snyder, Craig Kilborn and Craig Ferguson, in addition to Corden.
The search for a Corden successor takes place while late-night TV is in transition. David Letterman’s retirement in 2015 spurred a flurry of experimentation in the daypart, with BET, TBS and HBO among those testing new concepts. These days, traditional late-night seems to be shrinking. WarnerMedia did not replace Conan O’Brien when he left his late-night TBS show in 2021. NBC did not replace comedian Lily Singh after two seasons of her 1:30 a.m. program, “A Little Late.” Comedy Central, which once boasted three daily late-night programs, now only airs one.
People familiar with the matter suggest CBS is mindful of having the new show’s production costs align with the new ways people are watching late-night TV. Producers of the shows often find themselves focusing more intently on feedback from social media users, who pass around clips from the previous evening’s programs and watch them on Twitter or YouTube. In some views, the big late-night shows remains tied to some of TV’s earliest traditions and may not be as relevant to an audience that often watches comedy clips on phones and tablets. Many networks have chosen to test weekly shows that have ties to late-night antics, such as Samantha Bee’s “Full Frontal” on TBS or “Desus & Mero” on Showtime.
A panel show might help. It would rely on several personalities, even rotating a bunch in the mix, so the program wouldn’t hinge too heavily on one particular host. And it would allow the network to tap a broader array of talent, potentially weaving more diversity into a time period that doesn’t have much of it at present.
CBS may have permission to experiment with “Late Late.” The show has always been a showcase for quirkier talent. Craig Ferguson would offer up quick-hit monologues that had bizarre elements like a talking robot, and Tom Snyder focused more on conversation than comedy.
Indeed, Corden may be one of the most traditional hosts to lead a decidedly non-traditional show. With its signature musical vignettes like “Crosswalk the Musical” or “Carpool Karaoke,” Corden’s program is more akin to a property that might air before midnight rather than after it. Corden and his production company, Fulwell 73, have transformed some of the program’s segments into shows for Apple TV+ and TBS.
Fulwell and one of its principals, Ben Winston, who is also one of the executive producers on “Late Late Show,” could play a role in whatever succeeds it, according to some of these people. Winston and CBS are said to be in discussions about possible concepts for the new 12:30 a.m. program, and Fulwell already has a production deal with CBS to develop programming.
People familiar with the matter suggest CBS has already been approached by representatives of various hopefuls for a hosting gig, but is not likely to really ramp up its search until after the summer. These people indicated that George Cheeks, the senior Paramount Global executive who oversees CBS and as well as news and sports content for Paramount Plus, is deeply involved in the process of finding a successor for Corden. He certainly has the experience. One of the jobs Cheeks had while working at NBCUniversal was supervising late-night shows such as “Saturday Night Live,” “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” and “Late Night With Seth Meyers” for NBC Entertainment.
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