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|The Late Show
with Stephen Colbert
|Also known as||Late Show (franchise brand)|
|Genre||Late-night talk show
News / political satire
|Created by||Stephen Colbert
|Written by||Jay Katsir
|Directed by||Jim Hoskinson|
|Presented by||Stephen Colbert|
|Starring||Jon Batiste and Stay Human (house band)|
|Theme music composer|
|Opening theme||"Everyone (Intro)"
|Ending theme||"I'm from Kenner"
"The Art of the Bumper"
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||3|
|No. of episodes||498 (as of February 9, 2018) (list of episodes)|
|Running time||46 minutes|
|Picture format||HDTV 1080i|
|Original release||September 8, 2015– present|
|Preceded by||Late Show with David Letterman|
|Related shows||The Colbert Report
The Daily Show
The Late Show with Stephen Colbert is an American late-night talk show hosted by Stephen Colbert, which premiered on September 8, 2015. Produced by Spartina Productions and CBS Television Studios, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert is the second iteration of CBS's Late Show franchise. Stay Human, led by bandleader Jon Batiste, serves as the program's house band, and the announcer is program writer Jen Spyra.
Prior to Colbert's assumption of hosting duties, David Letterman had been host of Late Show for 22 years, dating to his arrival at CBS in 1993. CBS had not had a regular late-night talk show for most of its existence prior to that point, with only one attempt (the short-lived Pat Sajak Show in 1990) between 1972 and Letterman's arrival. Letterman, who joined CBS from NBC after ending his eleven-year run as host of Late Night and losing out on being Johnny Carson's successor on The Tonight Show to Jay Leno, was initially competitive with his show's bitter rival, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno; Letterman's Late Show, however, slowly experienced a decline in ratings over the course of the 1990s and 2000s, dating back to an affiliation agreement between New World Communications and Fox that resulted in all nine CBS-affiliated stations it owned or recently acquired switching to Fox between September and December 1994, relegating the network to lower-rated former Fox affiliates and independent stations in many major cities.
According to TV by the Numbers, in February 2013, the live-plus-seven-day ratings for Letterman's Late Show averaged about 3.1 million per show for the 2012–13 season to date. A year later, average viewership was down to 2.8 million. Late Show also had the oldest audience among the various late-night talk shows, which may have led to CBS' decision to pick a younger replacement for Letterman to compete with The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live!. In addition, Colbert's previous program did well among college students and young men 18–34, which are prime target audiences for late-night comedy programming.
On April 3, 2014, Letterman announced his retirement, with his final episode as host of Late Show scheduled for May 20, 2015. On April 10, 2014, CBS announced Stephen Colbert as Letterman's successor, signing him to a five-year agreement. In contrast with Colbert's previous program The Colbert Report, in which he played a fictionalized version of himself, Colbert hosts the show (which retains the Late Show branding, albeit with the article "The" formally inserted into the title) as himself. On April 23, 2014, the character version of Stephen Colbert appeared on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart to announce that he had clearly "won television" and would be closing down The Colbert Report because he had met his goal. This came after the announcement the character would not be used after the end of The Colbert Report. The final episode of Report aired on December 18, 2014.
Several states and municipalities attempted to coax CBS into moving production of the program from its long-time home in New York City with tax credits and other incentives, including Los Angeles, New Orleans and Connecticut. On July 23, 2014, CBS announced that Late Show would continue to be produced at the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York when Colbert takes over. Jonathan Batiste was announced as the bandleader on June 4, 2015, with his Stay Human band succeeding the CBS Orchestra (which returned to its previous identity as the World's Most Dangerous Band shortly thereafter) as the house band.
In anticipation of the program's premiere, a new online presence was launched for The Late Show in June 2015, including new social media accounts, a podcast, mobile app, and a monologue-styled video focusing on the beard Colbert had grown since leaving The Colbert Report. Throughout the remainder of the summer, videos would continue to be released through the show's official YouTube channel and mobile app. On July 1, 2015, Colbert hosted a special edition of a public access program in Monroe, Michigan, interviewing Eminem.
Colbert has been given near-full control of the show, with little interference from CBS management in regard to format. Colbert brought most of his staff from The Colbert Report with him to The Late Show, as well as outsiders such as Brian Stack, who is best known for his work on Conan O'Brien's programs, and Jon Stewart, former host of Colbert's previous sister program The Daily Show, who is credited as executive producer. Colbert no longer uses the character he had portrayed on The Colbert Report, jokingly remarking to Jeb Bush that "I used to play a narcissistic conservative pundit – now I'm just a narcissist."
The Ed Sullivan Theater underwent a full restoration to its original 1927 splendor in a process that began following Letterman's final episode, including the uncovering of the theater's ceiling, stained-glass windows and a restoration of a chandelier, due to advances in technology that allow less sound and video equipment to cover up the auditorium's architectural details. The 1993 restoration project for Letterman was only done on a few months' notice after the theater was repurchased in February 1993 by CBS.
In April 2016, former CBS This Morning executive producer Chris Licht was named showrunner for The Late Show; CBS had shown concerns that, despite improved ratings in comparison to Letterman's tenure, Colbert had a weak online presence in comparison to The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, and Colbert's lead-out The Late Late Show with James Corden (whose "Carpool Karaoke" segments have been popular as viral videos). The Hollywood Reporter believed that Licht's experience in news programming would be leveraged to complement Colbert's strengths in topical and news-oriented material.
Colbert originally started the show with a cold open and brief monologue before the opening sequence, which uses tilt–shift photography of day and night New York City scenes that make the city appear like a miniature model. During the opening sequence, a voice-over announces the night's guests. Starting with the April 18, 2016 broadcast, the first under new showrunner Chris Licht, the format was modified to replace the cold open monologue with short sketches starring Colbert, his staff, and often featuring that night's guests, followed by the opening sequence and Colbert entering the stage. Starting with the coverage of the Republican National Convention in July 2016, a new opening has debuted which starts off with writer Jen Spyra taking on the role of announcer—becoming the first female announcer in broadcast, late-night television—and announcing "It's The Late Show With Stephen Colbert!" to scenes of New York City at night including Yankee Stadium, Times Square and the New York City Subway, with names of the night's guests imposed on various places. This structure is similar to the openings of other late-night shows such as The Tonight Show or Late Night. Similar to The Colbert Report, graphics that resemble the American Flag have also been added.
The open is followed by an extended fake news style desk sequence with a run-through of recent headlines, in a manner reminiscent of television newscasts and that of The Colbert Report. Also, the show follows the same basic format as other late-night talk shows including the use of sketch comedy, guest interviews and musical performances. Colbert's guest list includes more political and government figures than his contemporaries; his first two weeks' guests included visits from Jeb Bush, Joe Biden, Ban Ki-moon, Stephen Breyer, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Donald Trump, and Ted Cruz.
Thus far, Colbert has not had any of his staff act as a sidekick or straight man on the show. While Colbert dances and physically interacts with Jon Batiste while the band plays, they only occasionally engage in on-air banter, unlike David Letterman's relationship with Paul Shaffer or the relationship of other late night hosts with their announcers or bandleaders. After the first few episodes in which Colbert introduced himself, he now uses an off-screen announcer. Occasionally, Colbert has brought out producers of his show, or enlisted the help of audience members, who assume a sidekick-like role for single segments, engaging in light dialogue about a topic.
In the show's series premiere, Colbert welcomed actor George Clooney and politician Jeb Bush, thanked former host David Letterman, and joined singer Mavis Staples and numerous other musicians for a rendition of Sly and the Family Stone's "Everyday People." The episode nearly missed its broadcast due to technical difficulties. An early interview with Vice President Joe Biden received particular acclaim.
Following the terrorist attacks in Paris that November, Colbert devoted his program to that city. A special football-themed episode aired as the lead-out program for Super Bowl 50 in 2016, featuring guests President Barack Obama (in a taped segment), Tina Fey, Margot Robbie, Will Ferrell, and Megyn Kelly.
On June 22, 2016, CBS announced that The Late Show would broadcast two weeks of live episodes during the 2016 Republican and Democratic conventions. The first of these episodes, on July 18, 2016, opened with a musical number by Colbert that compared the Republican convention to being "Christmas in July", and featured sketches where Jon Stewart (revealed to have been living off-grid in a cabin) is told that Donald Trump had clinched the Republican nomination for the presidential election, Colbert's persona from The Colbert Report is revived and delivers an edition of The Word on "Trumpiness", and a filmed sketch touring the convention's venue as his The Hunger Games-inspired character Julius Flickerman. Stewart appeared once more the following Thursday, delivering a segment criticizing the Fox News Channel in the wake of the firing of its CEO Roger Ailes. Colbert's performances during these episodes were critically praised for their return to an emphasis on news-oriented comedy similar to The Colbert Report and The Daily Show.
On May 1, 2017, in recognition of the completion of the first 100 days of President Donald Trump's administration, Stephen Colbert's monologue was devoted to the president. After showing the interview from the previous day in which President Trump participated in an interview with CBS's John Dickerson on Face the Nation and referred to the show as "Deface the Nation" and abruptly ending the interview without answering one of Dickerson's questions, Colbert began his monologue, where “The only thing your mouth is good for is being Vladimir Putin’s cock holster," was one of a barrage of pointed missives toward Trump in the 12-minute-long monologue. Colbert later addressed the controversy on-air, expressing surprise that he was not fired for the remark, admitting he had used language that was too strong, but also stating that he was generally unrepentant over the rant and that "I have jokes; he has the launch codes. So, it’s a fair fight." On May 5, the FCC announced that it would go through a comprehensive investigation of Colbert’s remarks, the result of which was no action taken against Colbert or The Late Show, reasoning in a public statement released on May 23 that there was "nothing actionable under the FCC’s rules" as the offending statement had been properly censored.
The Late Show debuted to 6.55 million viewers according to Nielsen Media Research, beating out all late-night competition and averaging a 4.9 rating among metered market households. With Live+7, the series debut garnered 8.26 million viewers. The show's ratings quickly dropped to second place behind The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon but remained ahead of Jimmy Kimmel Live. While Colbert still managed more young viewers than Letterman in his first few months, analyst Bill Carter wrote that his "opening splash seemed to dry faster than expected." He suggested this was due to little social media presence (where his competitor, Fallon, surged). A study from The Hollywood Reporter revealed Colbert's version of The Late Show draws the most heavily Democratic audience of the three hour-long late-night shows in its time slot; Carter noted that "some speculate Republican viewers have tuned Colbert out." An estimated 17% of Colbert's audience identifies as Republican, according to a survey in late 2015. His audience also has the highest percentage of Democratic viewers compared to Fallon and Kimmel.
As of early 2016, Colbert had trailed Jimmy Fallon in ratings, with an average 2.90 million viewers and a .65 rating among adults 18-49. Colbert's first week of live episodes in July 2016 during the Republican National Convention saw its highest average weekly viewership since May 6, 2016, and a 600% increase in online traffic to clips of the program on CBS websites.
Following the inauguration of Donald Trump as president in January 2017, The Late Show began to see major ratings gains, aided by the program's satire of the Trump administration. In the first full week after the inauguration, Colbert narrowly beat Fallon for the first time in average viewership since its premiere. By the end of April, The Late Show had been the top U.S. late-night program in terms of total viewership for sixteen consecutive weeks and was rated the number one late night show by viewership for the first quarter of 2017. The Late Show became the highest rated late night talk show for the September 2016 to May 2017 season, averaging more than 3.2 million nightly viewers.
The Late Show with Stephen Colbert has garnered mostly positive reviews. The Guardian's Brian Moylan praised the show's humor: "This opener was by no means a perfect show, but there were enough really inventive jokes to make Colbert already seem like an innovator." Robert Lloyd of Los Angeles Times deemed it a "strong start," while Variety's Brian Lowry felt it a "mostly terrific" debut, commenting, "Colbert looks like he has the skill set to settle in and make this job his own, night in and night out." Many critics considered the show's more political segments as reminiscent of The Colbert Report. An early interview with Vice President Joe Biden also received praise: Robert Rorke of the New York Post commented that the review gave Biden "that essential sense of humanity that makes people believe in a candidate."
The show's post-Super Bowl episode in 2016 proved polarizing. "Sunday’s live episode felt mostly like a wasted opportunity – one that probably won’t win many converts among those football fans sober enough to stick around," said Brian Lowry at Variety. Daniel D'Addario of Time dubbed his performance "stiff and uncomfortable," writing, "Colbert might have been better advised not to bother trying with football at all and just put forward a program of pure entertainment."
The Late Show has received mixed reviews following the inauguration of Donald Trump as president. "Colbert may not be the sarcastic, irony-laden character he once played for Comedy Central, but as Trump has dominated the news every day since taking office, The Late Show has become the home for reasoned, but incisive, discussion, on the perceived overreaches of the White House," said David Sims of The Atlantic. James Poniewozik of The New York Times commented, "Mr. Colbert’s comedy hasn’t become radically different, but it has been more frank and caustic...The network-TV Mr. Colbert is more cheery than his cable character. But it’s as if the Trump administration had solved the problem of reconciling his new comedy with his old by making truthiness America’s official language."
Season-to-date figures are averages of “live plus seven day” data except for the two most recent weeks, which are “live plus same day.”)... SEASON TO DATE/TOTAL VIEWERS...11:35 p.m.-12:35 a.m. ET: NBC “Tonight,” 3.6 million viewers, CBS “Late Show,” 3.1 million viewers, ABC “Kimmel,” 2.8 million viewers**
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The Late Show with Stephen Colbert