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Tonight on "Late Late Show": Attack of the Robot
April 5, 2010  | By David Bianculli
late-late-show-grant-imahar.jpgLate shows and robots have been co-exisiting peacefully since the 1950s -- thanks to B movies -- but tonight marks a new, Terminator-type evolutionary moment. Tonight at 12:35 a.m., on CBS's The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, we're introduced to the host's brand-new robot sidekick...

Like so many other elements of this CBS late-night talk show, the robot sidekick idea began as a one-shot remark, a playful moment, a germ of an idea that refused to die. That's how The Late Late Show got "What Did We Learn On the Show Tonight, Craig?" as a low-key ending, and Wavy the Cajun reptile and other sassy puppets, and intentionally staged "awkward moments," and so much more.

With the robot sidekick, things evolved from Ferguson bemoaning, as usual, his show's low-budget, bare-bones presentation: poor lighting, no band, no sidekick. He began musing about a robot sidekick, then invented a name for him: Geoff Peterson. Then, after diving onto Twitter, he sought out a REAL inventor -- Grant Imahara from Discovery Channel's Mythbusters -- and persuaded him to design a robot sidekick for real.


We've already been treated to the rough trials, and seen the sidekick accidentally decapitate a dummy stand-in for Helena Bonham Carter. We've learned of the "history" of late-night TV robotics, including a reasonable (and playfully disrespectful) explanation for Jay Leno.

We've also been told the three laws of Skele-Robotics, which reveals that someone on the writing staff is a die-hard sci-fi purist, a.k.a. geek.


The three laws, as enumerated, are direct echoes of Isaac Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics -- more proof that this nonsensical idea has come to fruition by being taken way too seriously, which is part of the fun.

Expect surprises tonight, and a special guest narrator - and Imahara himself, on board to reveal the "finished" Geoff Peterson. The fact that this inspired lunacy occurs less than a week after the show won a Peabody Award makes it that much more absurd.


But proper perspective has always been a Ferguson strong suit. As his puppet alter ego Wavy told the viewing audience the night those coveted awards were announced:

"I do know that this is the second time that Ferguson has won a Peabody Award -- the first time being at sleepaway camp when he was 10.

"But I do believe," Wavy added with his wide-mouth smile, "that was for a completely different endeavor."

Had Geoff been up and running, he would have laughed loudly at that one.I know I did.




Rich said:

Hmmmm, this could explain why Joss Whedon was so reluctant to give up on Eliza Dushku from "Dollhouse"...he hadn't finished paying off the inventor.

This Robot Sidekick sounds amusing - I might have to check it out. Just think of how jealous Larry King will be if it takes off!

Comment posted on April 5, 2010 1:51 PM

Tausif Khan said:

Do we know for a fact that Ferguson's show has a low budget or does Ferguson make the show low budget as a joke? I mean, he has tried to be unconventional with not having a band and all.

Comment posted on April 5, 2010 2:32 PM

Greg Kibitz said:

Even Craig realized that it was very lame. If only the robot had laughed correctly on cue as if it were a real sidekick but alas, it was instead bad, very, very bad. Oh well, weeks of hype and even a big opening number and then nothing but a big let down. Of course, I hate to say I saw this one coming. Alas I was pretty sure it would be very creepy and not at all like a real sidekick because even the best MIT robots that required years and many careers and cost millions to develop barely have any real personality yet and this was not that. Never forget that most movie robots are either CGI or just very elaborate puppets and behinbd them are real humans that make them so human. So I say stick to the hand puppets because they are infinitely more real and wickedly entertaining, very much unlike Geoff. So it goes. Maybe when the emoti-chip really does come out, things will be a bit better.

Comment posted on April 6, 2010 3:10 AM

Jim said:

Geoff was OK, although he needs more catch-phrases, but the best part was the Bonzo Dog song at the beginning.

Comment posted on April 6, 2010 1:12 PM

Mac said:

Well, David and other members of the Skeleton Army, wadda think? My tape gave out midway during the Kristen Bell segment. CBS and the NCAA pushed this even past my bedtime, and I work midshift. Without taking too much away, and since David has not been able to put his official two cents in, it was a bit disappointing for this viewer. The voice is the biggest problem, coupled with only eight phrases (didn't Chatty Cathy have 11, and that was 50 years ago?). But the fact that it was even annoying Craig made the problem a joke, too. Bravo for the inspired intro: a lipsynch of "Look Out There's A Monster Coming" by the Bonzo Dog Band. If you find a Bonzo video of the song on youtube, it comes from a British show, "Do Not Adjust Your Set", and the clip that I found had Michael Palin,pre-Monty Python,ending a sketch. If you don't know about the Bonzos, think of a musical Monty Python,compete with historical and literary references (one tune features John Wayne on xylophone and Hitler on vibes), and you're set for an adventure.

Comment posted on April 6, 2010 1:13 PM

Jim said:

I don't know if Ferguson actually credited Bonzo Dog, because our local TV station switched to another show before the "What did we learn on the show tonight Craig" segment and closing credits, but there are several Bonzo Dog videos on Youtube, which are well worth checking out, as well as other Vivian Stanshall projects.

Comment posted on April 6, 2010 8:17 PM

Greg Kibitz said:

It was good to see Craig felt the same about his robot as I did (the very lacking state of "real" robotic and AI technology), and yet, Geoff was much improved on Night #2, at least in the openning pre-intro bit. Surely many better more relevant lines with a real Craig flair. But I think that was all very rehearsed and like night one, would not work as well on the fly. Ergo, I think Geoff is best used only in bits and not at all as a sidekick. What's her face from the office said it best when she felt he was stealing her spotlight (something we at home noticed not due to the camera but I when they pulled out I could see it too).

Comment posted on April 7, 2010 2:31 AM

louise said:

craig and geoff are the best on the show. laughter is the best medicine and they make me laugh a lot.

[Me, too. -- DB]

Comment posted on October 8, 2011 4:20 AM
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