by Julian Spivey
When James Corden’s tenure as host of CBS’s ‘Late, Late Show’ began in 2015 it felt like a breath of fresh air for late-night television. I’ll never forget how he wrapped his first week by doing an entire show from a local person’s house – a total rando he just knocked on the door of – with guest Jeff Goldblum in tow. It was one of the wildest things I’d ever seen in decades of watching late-night television.
Corden, like no other late-night TV talk show host before him, also brought the medium into the social media age with quick bite bits like Carpool Karaoke and Crosswalk the Musical that played perfectly on YouTube or on social media sites. Sure, Jimmy Fallon had beat him to the punch by a few years, but Fallon’s bits on ‘Late Night’ and later ‘The Tonight Show’ were never cultural touchstones like Carpool Karaoke.
Corden also revolutionized the way the talk format was done on late-night talk shows bringing the multiple guests at the same time method used by Graham Norton on his U.K. show to the States. This is something that I don’t believe had been done regularly on a late-night U.S. talk show since “The Dick Cavett Show” in the ‘70s, and I’m not sure if it was even the main format for that show.
The allure of the double interview was the first thing about Corden’s ‘Late, Late Show’ to wear off for me as a viewer. Sure, it could lead to fun camaraderie moments among celebrities, but it wasn’t as intimate as the solo interview and could occasionally lead to awkward pairings – like a fairly recent episode I saw with actress Jamie Lee Curtis and stand-up comedian Nate Bargatze as the guests. The format probably worked well for Corden, as he’s never been a strong interviewer, but more of a buddy to the guests on his show. I really do appreciate the interview aspect of the late-night talk show format, even if many viewers likely turn off these shows after the comedy portion of the first half has ended.
I was a regular, if not almost every night viewer of Corden’s show for his first few years and enjoyed it, at least for the comedy bits and Corden’s personality – which we’ve come to find might be more of a put-on than most in his shoes or maybe he just occasionally has moments of unpleasantness like the rest of us do (the ordeal with a famous restauranteur last year harmed him in the public eye more than it probably should have).
But at some point – and I can’t quite put my finger on when exactly, but it was definitely before the pandemic altered the way late-night television was produced in early 2020 – I went from a regular Corden viewer to almost not watching the show at all. I think this has a bit more to do with my life and a large number of worthy TV shows to watch than anything he or the show really did – but I still watched Stephen Colbert’s ‘Late Show’ and Seth Meyers’ ‘Late Night’ pretty frequently and Fallon’s ‘Tonight Show’ semi-regularly. I found Corden’s show to be the fourth and later fifth-best late-night show on broadcast television.
Despite Corden changing late-night TV and bringing it in many ways into the modern era I found that I kind of liked things the way they had always been - monologue (something Corden paled in comparison to Colbert, Meyers and Jimmy Kimmel in and it wasn’t even close), comedy (Corden’s strong suit) and interviews (again, Corden paled drastically, especially to Colbert).
I watched the final week of ‘Late, Late Show’ episodes to see how Corden and the show sent themselves off into the sunset. And even though the occasion of it being the show’s last week was brought up often during the first three shows of the week they didn’t really have a whole lot of sense of finality to me. I felt like they could’ve been your average episodes with celebrities like Ray Romano pitching their latest work. There was also a primetime special broadcast on Thursday (April 27) before the finale regular show that featured the final Carpool Karaoke bit but I haven’t watched it yet (not sure I ever will).
But the finale on Thursday had some great moments that will stand among some of the best in Corden’s run on the show. I really loved a pre-taped sketch involving all of the current broadcast late-night TV show hosts (Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel and Seth Meyers) popping up at Corden’s house (in a dream) to essentially send him off into retirement with threats about not giving away late night secrets like not actually watching every project the guests on the shows are in and the fake laughter when a guest tells a boring or uninteresting story. The part of the bit I loved the most was the David Letterman cameo – Letterman is always going to be my late-night guy of choice.
The final guests on the ‘Late, Late Show’ were pop music sensation and dear friend of the show Harry Styles and actor Will Ferrell. Upon announcing Ferrell as the show’s last guest, the veteran funny man walked down the aisle toward the stage from the back as probably a thousand or more guests have done before but was carrying a sledgehammer. Ferrell has had numerous classic late-night TV bits throughout the years on various shows hosted by the likes of Letterman, Fallon and Conan O’Brien, but destroying Corden’s desk with a sledgehammer before the final interview could take place is right up there with the best of them. Ferrell is a first ballot late-night TV Hall of Famer for sure.
These finales always get emotional, especially when it comes to personalities who’ve come into our homes four-to-five nights a week for eight years in Corden’s case. He got emotional when talking about the job, his crew, his writers and the band led by comedian/musician Reggie Watts. He also said, “This show is everything I wanted it to be.”
The show then took its final commercial break before returning to send the show off in the only way Corden could possibly have done it – via song. It was a song about the joys of the show and the love of its audience and Corden could barely make it through the final bit filled with emotion. And that was that. After nearly 12,000 episodes at the helm, Corden was done as host of the ‘Late, Late Show.’
More so disappointing to me was that it wasn’t just Corden’s finale but the show’s in general as CBS has decided to go in another route after nearly 30 years with the hour following Colbert – a mistake, in my opinion, that will leave Meyers and NBC’s ‘Late Night’ as the only post-Tonight Show/Late Show/Jimmy Kimmel Live late-night talk show on broadcast television. It feels like the first nail in the late-night TV coffin and even though I can see reasons why the format might not be long for this world it’s always been a format I’ve loved and I think is important for television, especially for those of us night owls.
by Julian Spivey
Well, it finally happened. After almost 13 full seasons and 270 episodes a white character has finally been arrested on the CBS police procedural “Blue Bloods.”
On the most recent episode titled “The Naked Truth,” directed by Donald Thorin Jr. and written by Nicole Abraham and Daniel Truly, a white man was arrested for serial jaywalking in the nude.
“After 13 years, we thought the least we could do is throw a white guy in as the perpetrator. We’ll get back to the usual suspects – black men with the occasional black woman, Asian man and Hispanic man thrown in next week,” said Truly.
Fans were shocked when in the first 10 minutes of Friday’s episode Det. Danny Reagan (played by Donnie Wahlberg) and his partner Det. Maria Baez (played by Marisa Ramirez) slapped the handcuffs on Whitey Whiteman (played by Tanner Smith IV) for the serial nude jaywalking.
This led to some distaste from viewers online, like Houston Osteen who tweeted: “Wait? They arrested one of us. ‘Blue Bloods’ has gone woke. I’m never watching another episode again.”
“Blue Bloods” has a history of being perhaps the most pro-police, least progressive series on primetime television and has taken a stance on controversial policing topics in the past. But for some of its audience the most controversial thing the series, led by veteran actor Tom Selleck, has ever done is bring a white man to justice – even if that white man was released on bail moments later.
“Blue Bloods” showrunner Kevin Wade understands the controversy wrought by Friday’s episode but is encouraging fans to continue with the show as he promises the series won’t stray from its usual bad guys anymore.
“We always try to be true to real-world events and policing and we know that police in the real world mostly arrest men of color and we will continue to focus on that aspect of policing,” Wade said. He added: “We’ll stop focusing on ticky-tack crimes like nude jaywalking and get back to the real threats on the streets of New York like selling loose cigarettes.”
“Blue Bloods” was recently renewed for a 14th season by CBS.
by Julian Spivey
Schmigadoon! (Season 2) – AppleTV+ - Wednesday, April 5
The first season of AppleTV+’s musical-comedy “Schmigadoon!,” which is a loving parody of classic Hollywood musicals, aired in the summer of 2021 and although it’s cast – lead by Keegan-Michael Key and Cecily Strong – was terrific it was a minor letdown (worth finishing, but not as good as it could have been). That first season focused on a story that was an homage to ‘40s and ‘50s musicals like in the vein of Rodgers & Hammerstein, so not really my jam personally. Season two, which will be set in Chicago, will be an homage to musicals from the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s – so probably more Stephen Sondheim. This gives me some hope for a better second outing.
Tiny Beautiful Things – Hulu – Friday, April 7
“Tiny Beautiful Things” is certainly the kind of title you’d expect for a Hulu limited series (and it’s from Reese Witherspoon’s production company that did “Little Fires Everywhere”). The series is based on Cheryl Strayed’s best-selling book of the same name and stars Kathryn Hahn, always reliable onscreen, as Clare, an advice columnist who becomes famous while her own life is falling apart. The series, which premieres Friday, April 7, co-stars Quentin Plair, Tanzyn Crawford and Sarah Pidgeon.
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Fifth & Final Season) – Amazon Prime Video – Friday, April 14
I might be in the minority on this, but I’m not ready for Amazon’s comedy series “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” about the trials and tribulations of a divorced wife and mom who becomes a struggling stand-up comic, to come to an end. Some viewers and critics alike feel as if the show has lost its way, but it still provides stellar episodes, scenes and entertains me quite a bit. I hope the show is able to wrap up nicely, but I’m going to miss the Maisels, Weissmans and especially Susie Myerson.
John Mulaney: Baby J – Netflix – Tuesday, April 25
John Mulaney’s previous Netflix comedy specials “The Comeback Kid” (2015) and “Kid Gorgeous” (2018) have been laugh riots but an awful lot has happened in his life since those moments from getting a divorce to entering rehab for a drug addiction. It’ll be interesting to see if any of those momentous life moments make the set of his newest Netflix comedy special “Baby J,” which premieres on Tuesday, April 25. One thing I hope Mulaney doesn’t touch upon is seemingly every comedian’s favorite topic of the moment: cancel culture. Mulaney has been one of the best stand-ups in the business for more than a decade now, so I’m sure “Baby J” won’t disappoint.
Saint X – Hulu – Wednesday, April 26
Hulu has made a name for itself with limited stories based on novels – just look at the first selection on this month’s list – and on Wednesday, April 26 comes another in “Saint X,” based on Alexis Schaitkin’s 2020 bestseller. “Saint X” follows a young woman’s mysterious death during a Caribbean vacation and her sister’s search for answers years later. The psychological drama, starring Alycia Debnam-Carey, will be told in multiple timelines and from multiple perspectives.