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Craig Ferguson Has the Best Show on Late-Night TV: Are You Watching?

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For your late-night viewing needs there are many choices. Will it be David Letterman? Jay Leno? Jimmy Fallon? Carson Daly?

How about: none of the above. You may very well be missing the best show in late-night television.

Craig Ferguson, perhaps best known to U.S. audiences as Drew Carey's boss Nigel Wick in The Drew Carey Show, has been host of CBS' Late, Late Show since January of 2005, taking over from another Craig, Craig Kilborn.

Over the years, Ferguson has created what could be called the "un" talk show, with a loose format that eschews standard late-night conventions. He does not have a sidekick (although he will soon be getting a robot skeleton sidekick courtesy of Grant Imahara from Mythbusters) nor does he have a band.

A typical (and I use this term loosely) episode will open with a short segment that could range from a quick monologue to a performance by Ferguson and his gaggle of hand puppets. Following a commercial break is the show's opening credits, unique in the fact that the theme song was co-written and performed by Ferguson (himself a drummer in Scottish punk-rock bands in the 1980s).

A more lengthier monologue follows, but again with this being Craig's show anything can and will happen. Ferguson has changed the format on occasion, even running segments in the wrong order.

Ferguson likes to have fun with his audience (both in-studio and those watching on television), particularly when he's taping an episode to air on a later date, playfully letting everyone know that the "Friday" episode isn't actually being taped on a Friday.

Prior to moving on to the evening's guests, Ferguson typically reads e-mails sent in from his viewers. Most recently, he's been reading "tweets" from Twitter users. Ferguson joined Twitter in February and calls his followers the "robot skeleton army." Folks like Eddie Izzard and Stephen Wright have joined Craig in the reading of the "tweets." Ferguson may also have guests like LLS favorite Betty White appear for a few minutes before Craig gets to the guests for the evening. Other recurring segments might feature Ferguson dressed up as super-hero Aquaman for "Dear Aquaman" (several times introduced by Tim Gunn).

Guest interviews are not your standard late-night discussion. Ferguson will rip up his note cards before launching into the interview, with the guest and the audience not enitrely sure which direction Ferguson will take the discussion. In fact, for the show's 1000th episode, Ferguson turned the show over to his hand puppets.

Stephen Fry is a regular guest, and on February 23 he sat down with Ferguson for an hour of television that was simply amazing. For this episode there was no studio audience, just Craig and Fry engaging in a fascinating, erudite discussion on all matter of subjects. It was a bold experiment, something someone like Jay Leno would not likely undertake.

It's these kind of risks that have paid off for Ferguson: his show was just awarded the Peabody for an interview Ferguson conducted with South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu on March 4, 2009.

At times silly, and frequently fascinating, Craig Ferguson has changed the landscape of late-night television. He has crafted something unique, memorable and often times hilarious. And yes, even thought provoking.

The Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson follows David Letterman on CBS.

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About scottcsmith

  • Meli

    Absolutely right in that the ‘typical’ show is hardly typical at all. And Craig’s interests are so vast you often get what we got just this week–a show who’s first guest was Robin Williams (and Craig may be the only host on TV right now who can not only keep up with Robin, but actually make him fall apart laughing), and then in the next segment interview a philosopher about Moral Particularism.

  • http://twitter.com/scsmith41 Scott C. Smith

    I saw the show with Robin and the philosopher. I was impressed how Robin stayed (for him) relatively calm. Ordinarily I do not like watching Robin Williams on a talk show.

  • Max

    I watched Craig’s show once or twice but it never really stuck. I guess it’s time to give it another try.

  • http://twitter.com/scsmith41 Scott C. Smith

    He’s well worth it, assuming you’re up that late.

  • Baronius

    He’s definitely got the most original of the current talk shows. He’s a decent interviewer, yes, but the vast majority of celebrities just aren’t that interesting. I find myself watching the first 15 minutes of his show.

  • Val S

    I recently discoverd the brilliance that is Craig Feruson’s Late Late Show. His unique take on the late night format is truly one of a kind.

    I loved what I will loving call the “Stephen Fry Hour” and found the Moralist Philosopher amazing. He typically gets many celebrities to open up and be more relaxed; particularly his fellow Brits. My favorite interviews have been with the aforemetioned Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Michael Sheen, and many other folks from across the pond. They have the same humour and can easily play off of one another.

    Things such as the akward pause segments with any celebrity who he deems worthy (or who want to) is something so new…actually not talking. It reminds me of a staring contest :-) He seems to genuinely enjoy talking to people and doing what he does. It is simply refreshing and worth te risk of sleeping through work tomorrow, as he says in his opening theme song. Long live CraigyFerg.

  • http://twitter.com/scsmith41 Scott C. Smith

    Val: Amen!

  • pookamaki

    I find Ferguson’s show boring and juvenile with the robot and hand puppets. He is so rude to just tear up his notes and scatter them on the floor as a guest comes onstage. And half the time, he never really answers tweets of emails, but instead shoves them off the desk. He is sily with guests and I HATE seeing him drink out of the snake mug..what’s that all about!!!!

  • Ihatepookamaki

    Must suck having no sense of humor

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/jeromewetzeltv/ Jerome Wetzel

    To pookamaki: Maybe if you watched the show more often, you’d know what the mug was about.

  • MKay

    I record this show nightly & always enjoy catching up. I have also attended many shows in the studio itself & it takes on an entire new wonderful level of viewing. It is THE BEST Late night show out there. The entire in studio experience is great.