Stephen Colbert has officially grabbed the reins of The Late Show, and a new era of late night television has begun. Since Jimmy Fallon landed The Tonight Show back in early 2014, there has been a buzz about 11:35 on NBC, and with Colbert moving to CBS, the competition has been bringing more bees to the nest.
Jimmy Kimmel was perhaps the only beacon of hope in the rather dismal landscape that was late night television in the past decade, with Letterman’s ratings being lower than my high school GPA (quite low). Leno didn’t pull many more viewers, leading many like myself to refer to late night as: “those shows that are just–on”. Conan O’Brien brought some hope back to the historic timeslot, but didn’t really share the same credibility on TBS as the show he was previously on (you know, the one he was on before Jay Leno so graciously asked for it back). But then, along came Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. It was fresh, energetic and caught the attention of college students and the elderly people who decided to go back to college (for whatever reason). There was a place to be on late night TV once again. Fallon jumped ahead an hour, Seth Meyers followed, Colbert jumped in, and here we are.
And there is definitely some competition in late night, more than there was when Johnny Carson ruled behind his royal desk anyway. This time around, unique views are all the talk. Colbert managed to beat out Fallon on his opening week in total viewer ratings, prompting Fallon to bring on the likes of Justin Timberlake and Ellen DeGeneres on the second night and more heavy hitters this past week. And this competitiveness between hosts only draws more viewers to their boob tubes and the YouTubes. The viral video has also become an important aspect of late night television. Kimmel and Fallon seem to have cornered the market, with Kimmel calling on viewers to pull pranks on their families, and Fallon talking to the likes of Nicole Kidman about blowing a chance to go out on a date. But whatever the subject matter, the viewer count is the deadly weapon of the successful late night talk show.
When David Letterman took over Late Night in 82’, he became the catalyst of the new late night movement, inspiring Kimmel and Conan to be the quirky, unconventional host that play pranks and whisper dirty jokes into the guest’s ear during commercial break. Late Night became the anti-show, sticking it to the man and making fun of the network that could pull the plug at any minute. But it seems that NBC wanted to return to the classiness that was once The Tonight Show under Carson’s reign by keeping the cameras on set and dressing up the college frat boy in a suit. But with house bands like The Roots, and Jon Batiste and Stay Human, there is clearly effort being put in to make late night the place to be for a new generation.
Late night’s back and in full swing; there’s a place to be at 11:35 and its not in bed. From Colbert and Fallon, to Conan and Kimmel, there’s something out there for everyone. I’m your host Matthew Mastrangelo, and that’s our show ladies and gentlemen; goodnight.
This article was written by Matthew Mastrangelo, a writer for dusk magazine.