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Late-Night Surprises: Springsteen Sings, Ferguson Doesn't
November 17, 2010  | By David Bianculli  | 1 comment

Tuesday night on late-night television, Craig Ferguson didn't sing, as he had promised to, on CBS -- but over on NBC, as Jimmy Fallon's guest, Bruce Springsteen did. Both the singing and the non-singing, as it turned out, involved a surprise...

On CBS's The Late Late Show, Ferguson had been rehearsing for days, planning one of his high-energy, higher-insanity cold opening musical production numbers that was to open Tuesday night's show. The special guest on that night's show was Matt Smith, the current star of BBC America's Doctor Who, and Ferguson had worked up a wild tribute... wild by even HIS standards.

He'd written lyrics to the instrumental Doctor Who theme, explaining the origins, and alluding to the the many strange creatures and companions that inhabit the universe of the nomadic Time Lord. And to perform it, he'd enlisted the help of his usual (?) crew of backup singers and dancers, puppets, Secretariats, and even a surprise appearance by Matt Smith himself.

What a way to start the show!


Except... flanked by everyone BUT Smith, Ferguson opened the show, instead, explaining that he'd been informed -- just five minutes before showtime -- that legal rights to the music were not available after all, and the song couldn't be used.

Was Ferguson annoyed? Put it this way: Remember the most vitriolic thing his boss, David Letterman, ever said about NBC, General Electric, CBS, or Les Moonves, and multiply it tenfold, with lots of tutsi-frutsi dubbing thrown in to cover Ferguson's unusually long string of obscenities.

The show itself, by the way, was very entertaining, and Ferguson alluded several times to his hope that the opening number -- performed and recorded, but not televised -- would somehow leak out on the Internet. So far, it hasn't, but keep looking.

Meanwhile, the Internet HAS provided us a way to watch a musical surprise that was occurring, at the same hour, on a rival program.


NBC's Late Night with Jimmy Fallon devoted most of its hour to a visit with Bruce Springsteen, who was there, along with longtime E Street band member Steve Van Zandt, to promote The Promise, his enticing new package of songs from the mid-'70s Darkness on the Edge of Town sessions. (It includes a DVD of the documentary that was shown on HBO a few weeks ago,as well as almost two dozen songs recorded for, but never released on, the Darkness album. You can order it HERE.)

The interview, so much looser and better than most of Fallon's efforts, was delightful, in part because on Springsteen's talk-show appearances are so infrequent, and partly because Springsteen and Fallon obviously enjoy one another. How else do you explain the evening's bizarre, unexpected highlight, when Springsteen put on a fake beard to impersonate his '70s-era incarnation, and joined Fallon -- as Fallon's frequent Late Night musical alter ego, Neil Young -- to sing a duet?

And not just a duet on any song, but on "Whip My Hair," the novelty hit by Willow Smith, the young daughter of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith. How great is that?

And I think it all goes back to Fallon's spectacular opening number at this year's Emmy Awards, when Fallon, as host, gathered a Glee club of cohorts to sing an opening number, which culiminated with Fallon, as Springsteen, leading the group on a rousing rendition of "Born to Run." It was fabulous -- and yes, as a full-service gift from TV WORTH WATCHING, you can watch that here as well.

Last night, all that Emmy work paid huge dividends for Fallon. Now, if only CBS could have ponied up the bucks for the rights to that Doctor Who music....




MS said:

Just a minor correction: Ferguson's pantomime horse represents Secretariat, in reference to the recent Diane Lane movie, not Seabiscuit.

[Noted and corrected. Damn these sleep-deprived nights. Too much neat late-night TV. Thanks. -- David B.]

Comment posted on November 17, 2010 10:47 AM

Tausif Khan said:

Ferguson has been talking about Doctor Who for a while. When he started the show with the Dalek on Monday night (technically Tuesday morning) the first question that came to mind was does he have the rights for that? I mean for a talk show host that famously trumpets the fact that CBS won't even pay him enough for a band I had to question whether he could afford the rights.

Furthermore I get the impression that The BBC is very stingy with how their programming is distributed to the public. So I would have been very surprised if they had been able to pull that off.

I was especially disappointed because even Matt Smith said it was fantastic.

Speaking of Matt Smith I have question. Did anyone notice at the end of the interview how Matt Smith gave the peace sign? In England that means something else. Which meaning was the audience supposed to take?

Comment posted on November 17, 2010 1:23 PM

Sarah said:

I normally stay up to watch late night only when my favorite actor is on, but last night was special. As a whovian and fan of British TV for the past five years I have been wanting an actor from a series that I watch on BBC America on an American talk show for some time now(if I missed one before last night I'm sorry) But last night I felt like I had NO CHOICE but to watch "live". BEST episode of a late night show ever!! If I had my own I would have a quick monologue then only have one guest and have as much fun as they did last night. I actually stayed up and watched the whole thing and can't remember when I felt sooo happy or laughed sooo much. Great job even if we didn't get to see the opening number (I will look for it online and hope it appears). Keep it up Craig!

I recorded Jimmy and will watch later along with Bruce's number one fan in my family.

Comment posted on November 17, 2010 4:32 PM

Tausif Khan said:

David I have a couple of television history question.

1) Has Doctor Who ever been on PBS (any PBS station in America)?

2) PBS makes classic British comedies and dramas available to American viewers how come they have not done the same for British Sci Fi?

(I remember Doctor Who hitting syndication in the U.S. in the 70s, but not public TV, necessarily, at first. Though yes, by the 1980s at least, Doctor Who was presented locally by PBS member stations, including New Jersey Network. -- David B.]

Comment posted on November 18, 2010 2:15 AM
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Steven Goodwin
Hi Craig, Goeff, and Secretariat. How much is Secretariat paid per appearance?
Aug 9, 2012   |  Reply
David Bianculli
Whatever he's paid, it ain't hay...
Sep 20, 2012
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