I’m a bit of a talk show junkie. Chances are, I’m actually watching someone promote their new show than the show itself. Not many people could pull off what Ferguson does on a nightly basis. He doesn’t have emmy award nominated teams of writers. He seemingly wings it every night, flying without a net. And it works tremendously, because he’s charming and funny as hell. Aided by his snarky robot sidekick, Geoff Peterson, and his cocaine fueled horse friend, Secretariat, he takes on your emails and tweets and usually gets genuine laughs from even the most banal of guests because they don’t know what the fuck is happening. And Craig has fiercely loyal guest clientele. It wouldn’t be out of place to see the same guest three times in one month, because they’re simply delighted by his presence as opposed to having to do a Jay Leno pre interview.
Cameron and Rob did not strike me as the type to catch this genius on the regular, so I though I’d have them stop by and tell me how they felt about it. fellas?
Talk shows have jumped the shark for me. In my college days in the mid-90s, the only channels to really offer late night talk were NBC and CBS with Leno, Letterman, and Conan (Tom Snyder doesn’t count). Comedy Central began to air The Daily Show with host Craig Kilborn, but that was just a simple half-hour nothing show with D-list celebrity guests. But soon Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert would emerge into the late night landscape, then ABC would join in the fray with Jimmy Kimmel, and Craig Kilborn would jump to CBS after Letterman. Next thing you know, there are a dozen talk shows rotating most of the same guests around the corporate shill-scrambler. Then if that wasn’t enough, Conan would get exiled to TBS to offer even more competition. NBC has Leno/Fallon (soon to be Fallon/Meyers, at least until Leno gets the Tonight Show back in another bloody coup). Comedy Central still has Stewart/Colbert. ABC has Kimmel. E! has Chelsea Handler. Bravo has Andy Cohen. TBS has Conan and Pete Holmes. And last but not least, CBS has Letterman and the subject of this post, Craig Ferguson.
The beauty of all of this variety is that it allows the viewer to really pick a personality that they most want to identify with and watch. For the longest time, I was a Conan fan, but in my opinion he lost his edge once he got the Tonight Show. His TBS show is somewhat more genuine, but it still seems far more mainstream and safe than his old Late Night show on NBC. I have seen a few episodes of Craig Ferguson before, but I haven’t in a few years, so I was interested to see what his show was like in 2014. I can definitely appreciate how quirky and unscripted his show is, as the show opens with his robot skeleton announcer Geoff and a couple of guys in a creepy horse costume staring into the camera. Ferguson definitely does not beg any wandering passersby to enjoy his show, and that is great. This show is definitely not for everyone, but in that same vein, you may have to be in the mood to watch this show. There are times where I definitely would not be in the mood for this sort of silliness.
My least favorite part of the late night talk show format is the monologue. Most talk show hosts are not standup comedians and even those that are (such as Jay Leno) tend to empty a rapid-fire fusillade of awful hacky one-liners regarding the news of the day. Craig Ferguson (who is also a standup) sidesteps the format by conversing with the camera and tossing in random news items outside of the normally regimented monologue routine. He made a joke about Chris Christie’s 2-hour press conference, remarking that “the director of The Hobbit told him he needed to make it shorter”, which was a humorous off-the-cuff joke regarding Peter Jackson’s oft-overlong fantasy movies.
I was particularly excited to watch this episode because of his guests, Patton Oswalt and Hannah New. Patton Oswalt is a money guest no matter what talk show he appears on, but he is especially great when the host is also a comedian. The interplay between Patton and Craig was very natural as they both reminisced about comedy in general. Due to the nature of Craig’s interview style, with his trademark ripping-up-of-the-question-cards, some questions are hit and miss. There can be lulls in the interview, but generally Craig randomly segues between topics that some of them are sure to be interesting. The interview with Hannah New managed to make what seemed to be another boring blond English actress somewhat entertaining. The conversation ended on an awkward note when Craig explained that some sharks have two penises and that they have to bite the female sharks during mating season because they don’t have arms. It is rare and refreshing to see a host not give two shits about what their guest thinks (or even their bosses, as Craig made some interesting references to contract negotiations).
There is just too much great television out there, and that is why I feel talk shows have jumped the shark. Between scripted television, dramas and comedies, reality TV, news, sports and talk shows, there just aren’t enough hours in the day to devour it all. And with the internet and its ability to load specific clips/interviews from talk shows, it feels even less adamant that one watch a full hour-long talk show. Your humble narrator only watches shows if their is a guest he is truly interested in, and even then, there is a lot of fast-forwarding involved. Talk shows are a dinosaur in this day and age, but Craig Ferguson is a throwback to the days when talk shows were fun and irreverent, and I would not hesitate to watch his show more, if only it wasn’t on so late and I wasn’t already 10 hours behind on my DVR.
I don’t watch a whole lot of late night talk shows anymore. It’s just not something that I feel I NEED to see. I have this life to live, and television is a luxury. Late night shows lately just feel like a sub-par form of entertainment. Comedians get to make some half-formed jokes, since they have to do it EVERY night, some celebrity gets to promote whatever bullshit they just did in the guise of an interview, and some band plays live or lip syncs, who knows anymore? If I’m super bored, sometimes I’ll put on Conan or Pete Holmes because TBS is closer channel-wise than the networks and I’m lazy. The Late Show with Craig Ferguson. I have to say, I’m not all that familiar with Craig Ferguson as anything other than the boss from the Drew Carey show, so I’m coming into this pretty unbiased. Also, I just had a minor back operation and am still feeling the effects of the fentanyl, so bare with me. I’m watching the 1-14-14 episode with Kevin Bacon. It has a pretty goddamn odd opening with him talking to a robot skeleton and a horse. Is this normal? Anyways, still being on some drugs, this is tripping my balls.
Now the monologue. I guess the robot skeleton “Geoff” is the regular sidekick. Weird. Some of the jokes are funny enough, I guess. I’m generally just not a fan of talk show monologues. Here is something recent in the news, and here’s the joke we thought for it today. Eh, hit or miss obviously. The first little sketch thing is Ferguson and some guy doing German voices and acting like the band Kraftwerk. I really have no idea. Now some thing where he talks on the phone to celebrities. Obviously they’re not really the celebrities. Fuck, I’m more out of it than I thought. I shouldn’t review things drugged out of my mind, I’m lost as shit. Letters from…fans, I guess? Craig’s very meta. Talks about the workings of the show a lot. Yes, it’s just letters from fans. People are laughing, though. Why are people laughing? At this comedy show.
Kevin Bacon’s pretty funny. Apparently dogs always poop north, I didn’t know that, thanks Kev. Craig Ferguson’s a capable interviewer. Nothing phenomenal or special or radically different besides the robot skeleton sidekick. Joel had led me to believe that Ferguson was very different than your average talk show host. Maybe that’s how removed I’ve become from talk shows. This all looks par for the course. Now he’s interviewing some French actress Karla Souza. At least she acts in French movies. Ferguson is comfortable taking charge in the interview if the actor/actress wants to be boring. I like that. At least they skip the (usually) shitty band promoting their latest album and just close the show.
Overall…..it was okay. Craig Ferguson is a funny guy, and it’s certainly a late night talk show. I don’t feel any differently than I did at the beginning of the article about talk shows. I’m hardly ever up late enough to catch these live, and I don’t really find them compelling enough to DVR. Ferguson probably is funnier than Conan has been the last couple years, but the time slot kills it for me. I understand why he’s liked, and I hope he continues to thrive. Just not on my television.