Thursday, September 10, 2015

Colbert's Debut Ho Hum: Not up to the Fanfare

I admit I was not a regular viewer of the Colbert Report on Comedy Central, but I did like Stephen Colbert's humor and I know he could be very funny almost every night.

So when I tuned in to his debut of "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" on CBS, I was expecting a lot, at least one laugh out loud moment.

I'm sure I wasn't the only viewer who was disappointed.  Clearly, a lot of
work went into the first program.  The intro featured a produced piece of Colbert singing the Star Spangled Banner (in very good voice) with different groups from around the country in various settings.  It was great. Nice, amusing and had a kicker at the end - a cameo from Colbert's former colleague Jon Stewart.  The music from Jon Batiste and the Stay Human band was great.  The production had energy and the new set and renovated Ed Sullivan Theater are terrific.

But maybe the intro and the setting were the best parts of the show.

After that, there was a monologue (nothing special), host chat with two silly product placement gags (Oreo and Sabra hummus) that went nowhere, and two interviews.

The first, with George Clooney, was fine, but not incredibly entertaining.  Colbert went out of his way to say (more than once) that the movie star was appearing as a courtesy, not to plug a project.  He then went on to help Clooney speak at length about his work in Darfur.  No doubt Clooney is doing a great thing there in the western Sudan, but let's not say he wasn't plugging anything.

The second interview, with Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush was a little more fun and somewhat revealing of the former Florida governor's personality, but it wasn't exceptional.

Viewership for the debut Colbert "Late Show" was astounding.  The AP reported that 6.6 million people tuned in, which was double what David Letterman drew a year ago.  So that's good.  And I'm sure Colbert will hone his presentation and content as he becomes familiar with the new venue and audience.

I won't, therefore, say he's a fail, just that he has a way to go before he becomes must-see TV on a nightly basis.  We know he has the ability to be very funny.  There's little chance he won't get there.

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