Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Corden's Late Late Show -- Day 1



A Willy Wonka Golden Ticket...

That's what greeted viewers of the inaugural Late Late Show with James Corden at the helm.  It came in the form of a prerecorded skit that featured the likes of Jay Leno, Meryl Streep, Shia LeBeouf and Arnold Swarzenegger as drill instructors in a kind of late show boot camp. 

Dripping in satire, it was an obvious acknowledgment of Corden's lukewarm reception since being chosen as the new host as well as the delay in his start date.

We were then introduced to the new Late Late show band headed by Reggie Watts best known as the strange sidekick of Scott Aukerman on IFC's Comedy Bang! Bang! 

While Watts probably would have been a better choice as host, The Roots ( Jimmy Fallon's house band) have nothing to worry about.

One thing was clear.  CBS is betting the farm on Corden with a star studded premier that included Tom Hanks and Mila Kunis as his first guests and a set that Craig Ferguson could only dream of. 

Taking a page from British talk shows, Corden chose to have both Hanks and Kunis on at the same time leading to what was at times a chaotic exchange.

Corden, Mila Kunis and Tom Hanks on Show 1

The interview itself was much less formal than the average late night fare with Corden eschewing the interview desk for a chair next to Hanks and Kunis.  

Aside from pressing for confirmation of Kunis marriage to Ashton Kutcher, the conversation stayed light and largely irrelevant.  It was evident that Corden was attempting to adopt at least some of Craig Ferguson's interview style.  That being a discussion less about profession and more about personal topics like family and children. 

But where Ferguson was relaxed and informal, Corden comes off more like a giddy schoolgirl gossiping with friends.  A trait sometimes shared with the Tonight Show's Jimmy Fallon.  But where Fallon has real comedic talent and an affable manner to offset his enthusiasm, Corden seems to just be "playing" host.  Of course he is a Tony award winning actor so it's really no surprise that he'd fall back on those talents.

In the end the only thing we learned from tonight's show was that Mila Kunis "might" be married and Tom Hanks has 4 adult children.  Nobody was expecting a Ted Talk but the whole exchange had about as much depth as rain puddle.

Ok, so maybe he'll get better.

Corden is a bit of a culture shock to Americans not used to British "Chat Shows" and is best compared to hosts like Graham Norton or Jonathan Ross than a Jay Leno or Jimmy Fallon.  British talk shows tend to have a more circus atmosphere with hosts more likely to dance on their desks than interview from them.  How that will go over on an American network remains to be seen. 


Graham Norton Show

I didn't suffer any such shock, however, as I've seen plenty of British "chat shows" and to be honest I find the format dull and self-serving for the hosts.  British talk shows have always seemed far more superficial to me than their American counterparts.  It was more about having the famous guest than gleaning any real information from them.

There was a tribute of sorts to Tom Hanks film career with both Corden and Hanks acting out (badly) characters from his films against a green screen backdrop.  Hanks seemed to be enjoying himself but then he's got nothing to lose unless someone comes up with a Cosby-esque scandal. 

The show wrapped up with Corden seated at a piano singing us out which was as uninspiring as his Letterman interview. 

So far I give Corden's premiere an F.  It was tedious to watch and if I'm honest he just wasn't that entertaining let alone funny. 

There might be an explanation for it, however.  His resume is steeped in theater and light comedic roles meaning he's used to playing at being funny.  Pretending to be funny isn't actually being funny.  For the first few months he can play off his inexperience and a format strange to American viewers but that can only go for so long.

At this point I'm not expecting anything resembling Craig Ferguson's Peabody award winning interview with Desmond Tutu. 


On to night 2...