Comedy Central has been looking for the perfect follow-up to The Daily Show with Jon Stewart for a long time. The immensely popular faux news show has dominated late nights on the cable network for years, attempting to hang on to the viewers with talk shows, reruns, and other political-themed efforts. None have succeeded. Will a spinoff change that?
The Colbert Report is a spinoff of The Daily Show in that its host and namesake, Stephen Colbert, has been a feature of the popular satirical news show since 1997, but rather than attempting more of the same, Colbert and the network have taken a slightly different direction with this new effort. Whereas The Daily Show presents itself as fake news, it is at times incredibly discerning and accurate. The Colbert Report, on the other hand, promises no truth at all. According to Colbert during the premiere, truth comes not from the head, but from “the gut.”
While The Daily Show takes on straight news, The Colbert Report is targeting so-called celebrity journalists like Bill O’Reilly of Fox News. And it is an interesting balance; had the new show simply followed up with a similar format as its ‘mother’ show, it would have been doomed immediately. In taking this slightly different direction, The Colbert Report opens up new possibilities for journalistic and political satire. Of course, for The Daily Show team, it’s not a new idea; the new show is, for the most part, an expansion of Colbert’s frequent segment, “The No Fact Zone.”
But can the No Fact Zone stand up in its new, expanded format? With only the first episode out of the can, there’s no way to tell. The premiere, while funny, lacked any real substance. It works as an introduction, but there is no gauging the show at this point. Stephen Colbert is funny, and he is a perfect choice for poking fun at celebrity journalists who mask opinion as fact, but can he maintain what already looks like a one-trick pony?
We’ll see. The first show did set an interesting stage. Colbert spent the first segment explaining the show’s philosophy, which establishes The Colbert Report as clever and firmly tongue-in-cheek — and thus a perfect parody of any “news” show in which all the news seems skewed toward the host’s opinions. The second segment, the interview, seemed a little rocky. NBC’s Stone Phillips is a perfect guest for the inaugural show, but the rapport (Or Report?) between the two is halting when present at all. The best moment by far revolved around a sly mention of the Peabody Award on a shelf behind Colbert. Perhaps it is that Phillips lacks in comic timing, but the interview seemed uneven at best.
However, the follow-up was hilarious, easily the best moment of the show. Colbert and Phillips took turns reading snippets of increasingly inane news stories, and watching Phillips trying to keep a straight face while talking about charges against Mother Teresa was worth sitting through the interview portion. If the show can aspire to that level of comedy for most of its run, that run will be long indeed.
In the end, there’s not much to be said just yet of The Colbert Report. It may suffer the fate of so many shows that have attempted to follow The Daily Show, but with the power of great writers and a great host behind it, it may live up to the original and offer just enough balance to lock down the late night audience in favor of Comedy Central. One thing is for certain — legions of fans are sure to be tuning in over the next few weeks, and they are a tough crowd. Stephen Colbert may have been great on The Daily Show, but he and his Colbert Report will have to prove themselves if they want to be as successful.
And as a side note — this monkey has the very same oversized Chewbacca action figure that Colbert wielded in the last moments, and is thrilled to see that the host also seems to enjoy posing the figure’s arms so that Chewie appears to be ready to break into an aria at any moment.
The LegendaryMonkey is also Alisha Karabinus, a blogger and writer in Little Rock, Arkansas. Find out more at Sudden Nothing.