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TV Review: The Colbert Report

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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.

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About Alisha Karabinus

  • dria

    I have been waiting for months for this show, constantly checking the web for news on it and I was not disappointed!

    IT WAS FABULOUS!!!!

    I’m a huge fan of the Daily Show, and this program exceeded my expectations and I set them VERY high.

    Congratulations to everyone involved at The Colbert Report. Thank you for creating such an outstanding new show!

    Sincerely,

    Dria

  • Dave Whalen

    Ugh! I can’t believe no network in Canada has had the insight to bring this show here.

  • http://www.suddennothing.net LegendaryMonkey

    Blame Canada!

    *sorry, couldn’t resist*

  • http://www.midnitcafe.blogspot.com Mat Brewster

    Excellent review. You said pretty much exactly what I thought.

    The show needs something to ground it. It was so over the top satircal that it got old. The Daily show goes over the top on a regular basis, but there is a base level of seriousness that keeps me coming back.

    This was particularly true in the interview portion of the show. It wasn’t an interview at all, but another chance for Colbert to make jokes. An anctual interview followed by the brilliant line reading would have been better, in my opinion.

    Twas only the first show though.

  • http://www.suddennothing.net LegendaryMonkey

    Thanks, Mat! I thought the second show was better… the Word segment was funnier (and that’s a difficult monologue to pull off), though the interview was still the weakest part of the show. I think Phillips and Stahl just don’t know how to react to Stephen Colbert. I can’t blame them there.

    Hopefully, the show will just continue to get better.

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com Eric Berlin

    Great job, LM. I wish to the Higher Powers that I had Comedy Central at present so I could see this thing.

    Colbert’s muse is Stone Phillips: impossibly self-important and serious. That alone makes him funny and really rips through a great deal of the pomp and circumstance that is network news.

  • http://notesfromnancy.blogspot.com Nancy

    Now then, if they could get the actor who plays Chewbacca (and just became an American citizen, btw) to make an appearance..

  • http://home.comcast.net/~proy1/ Paul Roy

    I laughed my ass off. Colbert’s comic timing is outstanding. He makes stuff that shouldn’t be funny hilarious. Hopefully it can stay as good as this first show.

  • http://www.suddennothing.net LegendaryMonkey

    His timing IS great, it’s part of why he was so funny… but he was a lot more loose on the second show. The first one, I think he was nervous. Hell, I would be, too!

  • http://www.zerohq.com Rich Powers

    Good review.

    I tried really hard to like this show (Colbert is a favorite of mine). But something didn’t vibe. Like you said, the show – at least these early episodes – has no anchor (both literally and metaphorically); Stewart kept The Daily Show from becoming too much of a joke. The persona Colbert has created over the years just isn’t anchor material. Colbert was so perfect for the Daily Show because Stewart was a foil, always calling out Colbert’s ridiculous assertions only to be rebutted by an even more absurd one. Without this crucial element, Colbert wanders from funny to over-the-top.

    Plus I have a hard time seeing where this show can go. Devoting the first episode to making fun of O’Reilly-like “news” shows was perfect, as it established the concept. But unless you’re a serious news junkie/media aficionado, constant media parodies become stale very fast. The Daily Show can get away with criticizing the media because time constraints force the writers to ONLY pick out the best of the best. The writers must also avoid too much political news, otherwise the Report risks becoming a Daily Show clone.

    What it ultimately comes down to is that Colbert is best taken in moderation. Without a foil like Stewart or time constraints to keep his material potent, he wears thin.

  • aptaylor

    no thinner than you wear, you stuck-up, self important, dweeb. I give you three bloated paragraps and already you give me a headache. Christ almighty!

    Bottom line: Colbert makes us all laugh. And he shouldn’t have to play second fiddle to comedian who no longer sees the line between comedy and political activism (Stewart). The Report is what we all used to tune into TDS for in the first place, laughs at someone else’s expense.

  • http://www.suddennothing.net LegendaryMonkey

    Sure, Colbert makes people laugh. No one’s denying that. But I don’t know what you tuned into the Daily Show for… me, it wasn’t for slapstick humor. It’s for intelligent humor. And I’m not sure how much of that Colbert can muster without turning into a clone.

  • aptaylor

    Clone of who? Do you take Stewart for the paragon of intellectual humor? He’s a politcal thug with a charming demeanor. Colbert is has more comedic talent and brainpower in his little finger than Stewart has ever had. Maybe if stewart came down of his left-wing high-horse and stopped interviewing every slutty politician and Bush-bashing celeb politico he can hit up at a Manhattan night club, we wouldn’t need the Report to remind of the paradise that was the TDS once upon a time.

  • http://www.suddennothing.net LegendaryMonkey

    Yeah, hoo-boy, Tuesday’s guest Bill O’Reilly is the biggest of all Bush-bashing celeb politicos.

    Well, he’s a celeb, at least. Unfortunately.

  • ss

    AP, Stewart’s had Zell Miller and Rick Santorum (I’m sure I spelled both their names wrong) on, and that’s just off the top of my head. You don’t hate Stuart for being left wing, you hate him for making fun of GW and actually being funny when he does.
    ehh, ehh- that’s to bad, feller.
    heh-heh-heh.

    As for Colbert, the Words segment is worth tuning in, and you might as well watch the rest for the odd bits like the Chewbacca doll and David Cross’s imitation of left wing AM radio.
    Canada does beat America in maple syrup production. I’m sorry, but it’s a fact!
    You guys are right about it stretching thin over a whole half hour and Colbert needing a foil, though.
    What I like least about the Colbert Report is The Daily Show is stretched a little thin now, too. I don’t think Samantha Bee and Rob Courdry are at the same level as Carell and Corbert, and I don’t see to much coming down the pike that’s going to be able to round out the rest of the DS.

  • http://www.suddennothing.net LegendaryMonkey

    I miss Mo Rocca. TDS, BRING BACK MO ROCCA!

    Corddry… shit, I can’t spell his name. I like him, but the rest of the folks… nah, just not enough. Ah well. They’ll get the kinks worked out. I think the new guy Jason Jones has potential.

  • http://booya Craig Goodwin

    Welcome. I have enj– jus givvener eh?

    I have watched Letterman for…23 years? and now surrender. I think Colbert(Wow! that was refreshing to type)is a Quebequeqq..u..qe. name. You know; as do we ,here in blame Canada, there is an expendable amount of pitty for the libs. in the US. NO HUMILITY!! Keep up the good work
    P.S. To be funny and to be humerous are two different things. Laugh. Ha….ha aha eh?
    CRAIGER

  • http://www.myjobtopia.com Baalfyre

    Well, I watched the Colbert Report and once again we get a less then humorous show that REALLY lacks the tremendous lustor of the Daily Show. As we begin the premiere on our Canadian network…The Comedy Network, Steven heads into some old and mis-timed rant about the word ‘Hoser’ and then spouts off some more ‘Bush-esk’ propiganda tag words that most Americans love to hear. He then attacks the integrity and decisions of our Prime Minister, Paul Martin because Martin has decided, like most Canadians that Bush is in fact a floundering idiot who should be impeached and in double time. Above all that, the cadence of the show was okay at best. Comedic timing and the applause sign should have been sync’d up a bit more. All in all, the Colbert Report is a very pale comparison of it’s daddy. It’s pretty bad when people can’t wait for Canadian programming because a show from the US sucks so bad.