January 3, 2006, marks the anniversary of your first official night as the new host for The Late Late Show on CBS. What an extraordinary year you’ve had. It’s time to take a bow, sir!
Over the last year you have lost your tie, found your voice, and charmed a nation of viewers. It should be noted that not all the viewers are female either.
Your wit has served you well. As you became more comfortable with the late night format, you’ve pushed the envelope with your wonderfully quirky humor. When chatting with your guests, you’ve been quick-witted and created a warm and receptive environment in which they’ve felt safe to open up and let it all hang out. In short, you’ve done what no other late night host has managed to accomplish since Johnny Carson: you’ve created a forum for major and minor celebrities to shine — as themselves.
Instead of relying on the current “I have something to promote” pool of talent, you’ve found genuinely interesting authors (Nuala O’Faolain) and producers (Jim Sheridan) to interview, showcased singers you’ve met in coffee shops, and brought viewers their favorite entertainers from the past (Betty White). All of these guests have left a big impression on your viewers. This is mostly due to your genuine interest in them and their work.
There were a couple of live broadcasts in December that were absolutely spectacular! The first, with Jon Cryer and Amy Yasbeck, kept me laughing. I lamented the fact that I couldn’t be a part of the audience that night, but I was equally pleased to watch the show from home. Since you’re fast on your feet, even your taped shows run smoothly. I wasn’t a bit surprised that the live shows went off without a hitch.
You’ve stumbled and laughed at your mistakes along the way. You’ve shaped the show to fit your unique style. And, yes, one could say that you’ve also been shaped by the show. You’ve discovered what works best for you and you’ve run with it.
The eleven-minute monologue is delightful in all its free-form splendor. I’ve seen those cue cards of yours. The monologue isn’t all pre-written as they are for other hosts. Your cue cards simply contain bullet points for reference should you wander off on some fascinating tangent. Oh, what marvelous tangents! Bosch, Freud, space exploration, giant squid!
That reminds me of something else. I can’t honestly remember a time when I’ve heard anyone, let alone a talk show host, speak as intelligently as you do on history, art, philosophy, and the sciences. You have a brain and you use it! What an astonishing breakthrough for television!
You recently added Shadoe Stevens as your announcer. It’s good to hear his voice again. I would love to see you both in some wacky sketch. Maybe he could be your first American agent in a bit about you getting hired for the Drew Carey Show. Something…I’m sure the two of you could come up with something. He’s no slouch at the comedy game, you know.
Along the way, you have shared your pride in your quest to become an American citizen. You’ve reminded a great many people that America is a special place. In the process, you’ve shared many personal stories about Scotland as well as the incredible history of your homeland. Just as you have shown with the late night format, you’ve embraced that which is new to you with that which is part of you. The journey from your roots to your future is all part of the same fantastic package. This is one present nobody appears willing to give up.
Audiences have been responding. The Late Late Show is averaging 1.9 million viewers since the fall TV season started, a 9% increase over last year. Although Ferguson trails NBC’s Conan O’Brien, he has set ratings records for the CBS show in the past three Nielsen sweeps months, when local stations set ad rates.
Perhaps the most important part of your year in hosting The Late Late Show is that you’ve created a home for yourself and an audience who longed for something “special” on TV for many years. Now that you have this incredible home, I wish you nothing but continued success as you begin Year 2.
Thank you for a year filled with laughter, comfort, excitement, inspiration, and amazement. Thank you for making late night TV friendly and welcoming again.
Your cheeky wee monkey and saucy little minx,
Check out The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson on CBS, Monday-Friday, 12:30 AM, Pacific. If you can’t stay up that late and/or refuse to record the show, you can always catch up on the monologues and skits on the LLS website.
About the author: Joan Hunt adores Craig Ferguson and television. Without meaning to appear obsessed, she faithfully watches and records every episode of The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. She lives many miles safely south of Los Angeles and CBS Studios. Additionally, she likes kilts, tall men, accents, everything Scottish (except haggis), piercing eyes, roguish grins, and well, if you must know, spanikopita. Not that there’s a lot of spanikopita in Scotland. It’s just another item on the list of things she likes.