When CBS first announced that it had hired the relatively-unknown British actor James Corden to replace Craig Ferguson as host of The Late Late Show, the general reaction — after, “Who?” — was, “Really, another white guy?”
While Corden has by no means completely transformed the late night format, he has proven, in just his first two weeks on the air, that he is ready, willing and able to take some big risks. And so far, it’s paid off in more ways than one. In his debut week, Corden not only beat direct competitor Seth Meyers in the total viewer ratings, but also had the most-watched late night video of the week on YouTube, beating out Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel and David Letterman.
It’s entirely possible that the initial excitement surrounding Corden’s debut will die down and his ratings will fall off in the coming weeks. But if he continues his willingness to experiment, exemplified by the four clips below, he could end up having the most interesting late night show on television — at least until Stephen Colbert shows up this fall.
1. Bringing Out All His Guests Together
The most obvious innovation in Corden’s Late Late Show is his decision to bring all of his celebrity guests onto the couch at once. By forgoing a desk and having a free-flowing conversation with a group of famous people who may or may not have anything in common, Corden is clearly channeling the BBC’s Graham Norton Show, on which he was a frequent guest, managing to outshine Paul McCartney and Katy Perry on one occasion.
Corden’s first episode brought together Tom Hanks and Mila Kunis, who reminisced about the one time they worked together on stage. When Corden got Kunis to admit she had married Ashton Kutcher, Hanks played along like the pro that he is.
On another episode this week, Corden brought David Beckham together with Claire Danes and Bob Odenkirk for a lively discussion that just would never have happened if he decided to bring guests out one by one.
2. Allowing Himself to Get Sentimental
Here’s something you would never see on the Late Show with David Letterman. At the end of his first episode, Corden brought out his Broadway chops to sing a ballad to his audience that contained a few jokes. But more than anything else, it was his way of introducing himself to America as someone who isn’t always going to go the ironic route, but rather was genuinely excited about his new opportunity and wasn’t afraid to show it.
3. Reggie Watts
By choosing comedy music star Reggie Watts as his bandleader, Corden was showing the world that he’s willing to get weird. Corden not only poached Watts from his role as bandleader/sidekick on Scott Aukerman’s fake talk show Comedy Bang Bang, but he’s also borrowed one of the weirder bits from that show. In each episode, Watts gets to ask one of the celebrity guests a question. For instance, earlier this week he asked Aubrey Plaza, “If you were an eagle, would you attack people in the evening or the daylight?”
But if you really wanted to see Watts shine, you would have had to wait until the final segment of Tuesday night’s show, when he was given four minutes to do what he does best. Just watch.
4. The Absolute Insanity that Was #TommysHouse
Even with the innovations above, The Late Late Show is still, more or less, a fairly standard late night talk show. There’s a monologue and celebrity guests and sometimes a musical performance. But then last night happened.
In just his seventh show on the air, Corden decided to do something unprecedented. He and his crew wandered around the neighborhood near their CBS studio until they found someone who was willing to invite them in on the spot and let them tape the entire show from the living room. Fortunately, they found Tommy and his roommates.
The episode, which featured a game of hide and go seek with Jeff Goldblum and Beck along with the appearance of an enormous snake, instantly breathed a whole new type of energy into the late night arena. Corden appeared genuinely nervous for much of the hour that they whole thing would turn into a disaster, but in the end it was anything but.
The evening ended with Beck serenading Tommy, who just happened to be one of his biggest fans, as Corden sat on the couch smiling. You could just tell he knew he had something special on his hands.
[Photo via CBS]
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