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Posts tagged as “Stephen Colbert”

First take/Colbert

The job that a first paragraph of a book has is to get you to read the next one, and establish some interest in reading the pages after that. So, presumably, was the central job of Stephen Colbert's first show last night as host of Late Night, which also had the job of showing he could do this new thing as well or better than his old one, which was hosting the Colbert Report - which was a work of near-genius. It may be that the Report was something that just couldn't be followed or matched, and it may be that Colbert becomes just another in the crowd of late-night hosts. First show demonstrated without doubt he is fully capable of doing that; the question is, can he create and break barriers and inform while entertaining on something like the level of the Report, or even beyond it? Freed from having to work inside his "character" (although most of the time he doesn't really come off all that differently), the possibility of a major new invention is there. But that's as yet unclear. The first Colbert Late Night followed the usual contours of a late night talk show, in outline not so different from David Letterman's show. The energy level was high, and Colbert seemed beyond delighted to be there. But there isn't yet, as there was on the Report from the beginning, much of a sense of something very new and different - something you just had to stay up to 12:30 a.m. to see. But it fell just short of that: This was an entertaining show with enough going on, and enough of interest (and just enough you'd want to talk about the next day) that you do want to see what comes next. So I'll check it out again tonight; it was good enough to make me curious about what comes next. And maybe, possibly, the page after that. - rs

First take

The most surprising thing about the Republican presidential debate was the questions, and how tough many of them were. Most especially the questions aimed at Donald Trump. Those were so fierce - not least the calling-out on an independent candidacy at the beginning, which ostensibly wasn't aimed at a single candidate (though it really was) - that a clear goal on the part of Fox of seriously damaging Trump was evident. If Trump's constituency were of a different kind, it might have worked, too. The questions hit home on such matters as party loyalty, violation of core party stands and more, matters that would kill off most candidates. But while the questions highlighted, they did not unearth. Trump's threat to run a third-party candidacy has been in the news, as had nearly everything else the Fox questioners brought up. Was Trump damaged by the debate? We'll find out more soon in the after-party polling, but I'd guess not. I think it's more likely Fox drove a wedge between itself and some of Trump's constituency, which may be led by the candidate to now view Fox as just another part of the establishment. And did other candidates gain? Maybe Marco Rubio, a little, since he came cross as polished at least and got some easy questions. In the kids' table debate, Carly Fiorina was described as projecting a strong presence, but she's way back in the pack to start. Jeb Bush did himself little good - he didn't crash, but he came across like a dull corporate attorney. Did the debate change the contours of the race? Probably not much. And on to round two.

In our household when we turn to "the news" on television, that has for many years meant Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert - no other regular "news" TV programming need apply, so poor has most of the quality gotten. (CSPAN is welcome, and scattered individual programming, but nothing else on a nightly basis.) So this has been a significant year: First Colbert and now Stewart, as of last night, have departed. The news won't be the same. But the future beckons. Larry Wilmore, while not yet the equal of either of those two, has been gaining some strength. And while we as yet have no idea of what job Stewart's successor will do, we do know that others can do the job well: A year ago, John Oliver did a terrific job filling in for three months, and he was promptly grabbed away to do his own program elsewhere. So good luck to the new order.