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Colbert's Opening 'Late Show' Features Some Sly Moves
September 9, 2015  | By David Bianculli  | 6 comments

To open and close his inaugural Late Show with Stephen Colbert on CBS, the host sang: “The Star-Spangled Banner” to kick things off, and, with a stage full of musical guests, “Everyday People” to wrap things up. It was a Sly opening-night move…

And not just because “Everyday People” is a golden oldie from Sly & the Family Stone.

“Everyday People” is a song whose lyrics are a celebration of, and call for, acceptance and inclusion. It’s an effervescent number that pokes fun at prejudice (“There is a yellow one / that won’t accept the black one / that won’t accept the red one / that won’t accept the white one…”), then serves up an all-embracing moral.

“You love me, you hate me, you know me and then / you can’t figure out the bag I’m in…”

That particular lyric might well have served as Colbert’s theme song, as he presents himself, in a reincarnated version, as the host succeeding David Letterman on the Late Show stage. Whether you loved or hated him as the faux conservative commentator on Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report, what bag is Colbert in now?

The success bag.

Only so much can be gleaned from night one of an enterprise as organically dynamic, and relentlessly growing, as a TV talk show. It’s a little like judging an oak tree from its initial leafy shoot out of the forest floor.

But you can judge certain things, and decisions, and everything on Tuesday’s first Late Show with Stephen Colbert felt right. (Well, okay, maybe The Mentalist bit fell a little flat, but that’s all.)

Bandleader Jon Batiste (left)? Great move.

Dynamically different guest list? Brilliant. Tonight and in coming days, business CEOs and a seated U.S. Supreme Court Justice will share billing with actresses and rappers.

Colbert as host? As enthusiastic as Batiste, as self-assured as opening-night guest George Clooney, and, as an interviewer, refreshingly attentive. I like the affability between Colbert and reigning Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon, but if there’s an instant distinction between them, it’s that Fallon, in conversation, is always listening for the next joke opportunity. Colbert seems to be just listening – which leads to much more, as it did Tuesday night when he interviewed Republican presidential aspirant Jeb Bush.  

We’ll see for ourselves, in the coming days, weeks and months, how Colbert’s Late Show will shake out. But I suspect CBS won’t have to replace that new Ed Sullivan Theater marquee – or hit its Mentalist button – for a long, long time.

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Gary Cooke
Colbert seems like he's always trying to be cute -- the twirling around, the expressions. He's a smart guy but doesn't feel as authentic as Dave or Craig. Late night choices are now dismal, in my view.
Sep 15, 2015   |  Reply
Tuesday's premier fell flat, IMO. Never laughed, did not recognize any of the singers at the show's finale, and found the stage/theater's costly reconstruction too busy: lots of lights, the chandelier, stairs, C America shield, etc. There's something about the audience's unnecessary standing ovation, at a host's entrance, too.

I never watched Colbert on the C Central show. Was completely unfamiliar with that character. Basically, just giving Colbert a chance as Letterman's replacement 'cause I was a Letterman fan. Probably try Colbert for 1-2 months; we'll see.

With C. Ferguson and Letterman gone, I've lost interest in late night talk shows. Never really enjoyed Myers and Fallon on SNL. Why watch them somewhere else?

Off and on over the last 3-5 years during Letterman's last few years, I've tried Kimmel with hope of continuing my interest in late night talk shows with Letterman's pending exit but Kimmel does nothing for me. Kinda liked Kimmel's Uncle Frank though..............
Sep 11, 2015   |  Reply
Mark Isenberg
It is clear Stephen Colbert has a following more passionate than Dave's was but that is not the point. After only two shows,his interviewing techniques are not good.He had visionary Elon Musk on for maybe six minutes. He showed little regard for a lot of things Elon is working on,the super high stock valuation which many suspect is too high,and how we all are supposed to own electric cars if Stephen has one. Not overly worried yet but Stephen has to do better at this or people will tune out till the musician of the night comes at the end of the broadcast.
Sep 10, 2015   |  Reply
Colbert seemed like he was still doing a character, which surprised me. He seemed like he was playing a late-night talk show host. I saw nothing that seemed genuine about him. Quite disappointing.
Sep 10, 2015   |  Reply
Jane Lienau
I almost always agree with your movie reviews, but thought Colbert was DREADFUL and amateurish. Great music, though!
Sep 10, 2015   |  Reply
George Ashur
Sep 9, 2015   |  Reply
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