TIME Television

On James Corden’s Late Night Debut, It’s One More Mr. Nice Guy

James Corden steps on stage for the first episode of "The Late Late Show with James Corden," premiering Monday, March 23 (12:37 -- 1:37 AM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Photo: Monty Brinton/CBS ©2015 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Monty Brinton/CBS

The English comic actor introduced himself as his own man, but his show is also a sign of how late night has been Fallonized.

In an opening video introducing The Late Late Show‘s new, very English host to Americans, James Corden learns everything that he knows about late-night hosting from Jay Leno. It’s a joke, of course, and a funny first calling card. But this very early glimpse of Corden’s new show suggests that he and his producers–and maybe late night generally–are increasingly learning from Jimmy Fallon.

This isn’t to say that Corden is himself influenced by Fallon, or that his late-night style–which, who knows what that is after one episode?–will especially resemble the Tonight host’s. (Certainly he does also have an earnest, let’s-all-have-good-fun-together vibe.)

But Corden’s hiring suggests a different direction in late night, from comedians to comic performers. Leno and David Letterman were standups; Conan O’Brien and Seth Meyers were comedy writers. But Fallon, and it seems Corden, represent a slight but significant shift: from hosts who say funny things to host who do funny things. (Letterman’s successor, Stephen Colbert, arguably has a foot in both camps, which will make it interesting to see the kind of show he builds around himself.)

It’s a broad generalization, obviously; Fallon is funny in his own right, and Corden co-wrote the British sitcom Gavin and Stacey, which he also starred in. But Fallon is a performer first, and his most memorable, viral moments–“History of Rap,” his musical imitations, his celebrity stunts and contests–have showcased his performance skills. The jokes, monologue and interviews–the talk-show part of the talk show–have been secondary. In the process, he’s made neither a talk show like Leno’s or a snarky comedy laboratory like Letterman’s, but something like a revival of the variety show.

There’s definitely something Fallonized about the new Late Late Show, not necessarily in a bad way at all. To replace the dryly funny Craig Ferguson, CBS also hired a performer: a game, eager multihyphenate who can act, sing and do physical comedy. And Corden’s first hour, if not a copy of Fallon’s show, clearly looks to use his talents in the way that Fallon’s Tonight used his.

So we got that well-produced, celeb-heavy video, which did double duty both introducing Corden and showing the comic acting range that apparently interested CBS in the host, who’s so far little known in the States. It was well-written, made an asset of Corden’s Englishness (“Petrol is a liquid. It can never be gas!”) and, intentionally or not, hung a comic light on the fact that one more white guy was getting a late-night show. (When the Late Late Show succession is decided Willy Wonka style, Corden literally picks up a golden ticket dropped by Chelsea Handler.)

But the standout bit in the first hour–and the one that most shows the Fallonization of late night–paired Corden with guest Tom Hanks to run through a frenetic medley of scenes from Hanks’ movies, complete with quick costume and wig changes and creative use of green screen. Like a lot of late night in general, it was aimed at viral sharing the next morning. And it was smartly chosen to highlight Corden’s strengths as a versatile stage performer the same way Fallon’s musical sketches do. I don’t know if this will be Corden’s “History of Rap,” but that’s clearly where this was going, and I bet we’ll be seeing more like it in one form or another.

I don’t want to dwell much on the talk-show part of this talk show, since that’s the most subject to tinkering and overhaul (not to mention the greater learning curve) on any new late-night series. There were first-night nerves, which Corden showed by giggling loudly at a lot of his own lines. The device of bringing both Hanks and Mila Kunis on at once cocktail-party style is promising, but we’ll see if it works with a wider range of guests. (The first guests were prepared to make a splash, including Kunis flashing a ring to “reveal” that she may or may not have married Ashton Kutcher.)

Other elements of the show are embryonic. Musician-comedian Reggie Watts was an inspired choice for bandleader, and let’s hope the show gives him an active role; it’ll be interesting to see if his experimental comedy style can mesh with Corden’s. As for rolling out Corden’s desk chair: I’m all for having a more intimate talk, but if Corden wants to go in that direction, his producers might just want to spring for a second, more comfy chair?

Corden will probably have plenty of time to prepare; CBS has been patient with this time slot, and it can’t have instant ratings expectations considering he’ll host all summer, between Letterman and Stephen Colbert, without much of a lead-in. The first night, then, is just a declaration of principles, and Corden’s was: I’m a nice guy who likes to entertain, and I’m excited to show you a good time.

He closed his first episode, in fact, with a serenade, seated behind a piano. It was funny enough, but also a little sincere and even sentimental, inviting viewers to stick with “The Late Late Show With Me–and You.” At one point, Corden playfully raised his hands to show us that he wasn’t really playing the piano. But there was no ironic, Dave-or-Conan-style archness here in deconstructing the artifice of the moment. Corden just seemed to be telling us: this is what it means to put on a show.

TIME Television

Watch James Corden Score a (Maybe) Scoop on His Late Late Show Debut

The British host kicked off his late show with a bang when guest Mila Kunis said she 'might' have gotten married

The British invasion of late night television continues. On Monday, James Corden took over as host of the CBS late-night talk show, where he interviewed guests Mila Kunis and Tom Hanks.

Though Corden was a relative unknown in the U.S. until his recent appearance in Into The Woods, the British comedian has already built a successful career as a television and stage actor in the U.K. And in his late night debut, Corden — who took over the show from the Scottish-born presenter Craig Ferguson — also proved a charming host. He (maybe) even managed to get a scoop out of Kunis, who has been engaged to actor Ashton Kutcher since early 2014. When asked point-blank by Corden if she had gotten married, Kunis replied with a coy “maybe.” For his part, Corden took the reply as a confirmation: “That’s a yes as far as I’m concerned.”

In addition to Kunis and Hanks, other high-profile figures made appearances — though in pre-taped segments — on the show, including Chris Rock, Eddie Redmayne, Billy Crystal, Lena Dunham, Simon Cowell, Katie Couric, Chelsea Handler, Allison Janney, Shia LaBeouf, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jay Leno.

Read next: James Corden Wants to Make the World of Late-Night TV More Diverse

Read next: Watch New Late Late Show Host James Corden Have Trouble Getting Past CBS Security

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Television

Watch Julianna Margulies Reveal Her Good Wife Hair Secret

That's not the actress' real hair on TV

Julianna Margulies is known for looking impeccable on her hit CBS series The Good Wife. But as the actress told David Letterman when she visited the Late Show on Wednesday night, she has a little help in the hair department.

The curly-haired actress wears a custom-made wig in her role as Alicia Florrick. Letterman, who seemed shocked at the news, commented on the “fantastic” look of the hair piece. Turns out, that level of wig quality comes at a price — $10,000 to be precise. Margulies has said in the past she prefers the wig as it saves her time getting ready before filming.

The new season of The Good Wife premieres on March 1.

TIME Television

Watch Taylor Swift and Jimmy Fallon Dance For Jumbotron Over and Over

The pair reminisced over their fondness for spilled popcorn and retro dance movies

Taylor Swift stopped by The Tonight Show on Tuesday night to help Jimmy Fallon celebrate the show’s one year anniversary.

During the singer’s appearance, Fallon took the opportunity to poke fun at her fondness for dancing at live events. He also mentioned that he missed the days when Swift would only dance with him on the jumbotron at sporting events. What followed was a montage of the two dancing their way through games of all of New York’s major sports teams, including the Brooklyn Nets, New York Giants and New York Islanders.

It’s now all too clear where Swift gets her dance inspiration from.

TIME Televison

Watch Conan O’Brien and Anna Kendrick Imagine Life as a Musical

The star of Into The Woods and Pitch Perfect gave the late-night host a taste of what the singing life is all about

If you’ve noticed that actor Anna Kendrick has been doing a lot of singing lately, you’re not alone. Conan O’Brien asked the Into The Woods star about her multiple musical roles when she appeared on his late show Wednesday night.

Kendrick, who has a number of past and forthcoming film roles involving musical numbers, told the comedian she’s a big fan of singing. “I love it so much,” she said. “[It] is near and dear to my heart.”

In fact, the 29-year-old actor is so keen on singing that when O’Brien asked her how she’d feel about living life as a musical, she readily joined him in song.

TIME movies

Watch Jamie Dornan Read Fifty Shades of Grey in a Scottish Accent

Christian Grey goes international with Jimmy Fallon

When actor Jamie Dornan, who plays Christian Grey in the upcoming Fifty Shades of Grey, visited Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show on Monday, the late-night host decided to indulge in a little (clean) fun. In a game called “Fifty Accents of Grey,” the two men alternated using a device dubbed the “accent generator,” and reading aloud lines from the Fifty Shades novel in different accents.

Dornan, who hails from Northern Ireland, was tasked with reading the line, “I don’t remember reading about nipple clamps in the Bible,” in a Scottish accent, while Fallon gave his best Russian impression.

Though Dornan seems to have a range of accents down, die-hard Fifty Shades fans will be happy to hear that on-screen Christian Grey is still all-American.

Read next: Fifty Shades of Grey Director Didn’t Enjoy Working with Book’s Author

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Television

See How Johnny Depp’s Daughter Helped Perfect His Movie Characters

It involves barbies

Johnny Depp explained how his daughter helped him develop many of his eccentric characters on Jimmy Kimmel Live on Thursday—and it involves barbies.

Watch above to find out more.

 

TIME Television

Kristin Chenoweth Says Her Dad Made Her Afraid Of Flying

She bought her dad a plane for Christmas

Kristin Chenoweth admitted to buying her dad a plane for Christmas, but she doesn’t share his affinity for flying– and it’s his fault.

When Chenoweth’s father took her flying once in a Cessna she bought him as a gift, he pulled a prank that made her less than comfortable in the air. The actress, promoting her return to Broadway next month in musical On the Twentieth Century, related the trick to Seth Meyers last night on NBC’s Late Night With Seth Meyers.

Watch above to find out more.

TIME Television

Stephen Colbert’s Late Show and the Case Against Originality

Maybe the new host will completely blow up the late-night format. But he doesn't have to do that to be an innovator.

Monday at the Television Critics Association press tour in Pasadena, CBS announced the premiere date of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert: Sept. 8. It did not announce the content or format of the show, because Colbert is still figuring that out.

Speaking to reporters, CBS president Nina Tassler said that the network is, essentially, waiting for Colbert to work all of that out. “I have nine months to make a show, just like a baby,” Colbert said in a release. “So first, I should find out how you make a baby.”

He’s said he’ll have guests and that he won’t host in character. He has not said whether or not he’ll have a monologue. Beyond that, it’s a blank. “Part of the opportunity of being in business with brilliant talent like Stephen Colbert,” Alan Sepinwall reported Tassler saying, “is really letting him do what he wants to do.”

So it sounds like Colbert has fairly free rein. He could tear up the whole blueprint if he wants. He could invent a new format much as he did with his nine-year performance piece on Comedy Central. He could bust up the desk for firewood, tear the whole thing down and rebuild from the ground up.

Maybe he shouldn’t.

Before you say it, I know: I’m a hypocrite. I have written, over and over, about how tired the monologue-desk-and-interviews late-night format is. About how the real late-night energy is in shows doing anything but that. About how the desk is, creatively, the world’s most expensive (albeit also well-paying) pair of cement shoes. I am, to an extent, playing devil’s advocate with myself here.

Colbert is creative and ambitious. I don’t doubt he’ll bring tons of ideas. But I also bet you agree to host an 11:35 late night talk show because you want to host an 11:35 late night talk show. Within that format, there’s still plenty of room to distinguish yourself.

Letterman gave the format possibly its biggest remake ever–but what he did, at NBC then CBS, was still a talk show. Conan O’Brien’s Tonight Show was still a talk show, a very traditional one in many ways, yet it was still a significant, and short-lived, departure for NBC simply because of his sensibility. Conversely, Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight is really more different from Jay Leno’s in format than Conan’s was–but it’s closer in terms of upbeat attitude.

And look: it’s only fair to expect someone to build a network late-night show for those people who will actually, regularly watch a late-night show. I’m not one of them. I love Colbert, and however great a show he creates, it will go into the same DVR queue of recordings that The Colbert Report did, to be watched now and then when I have spare time, if I don’t just catch the highlights in online video form. He would be forgiven for not creating a show specifically with me in mind.

Of course, I’d love it if he did! I believe Colbert may be the biggest talent in late night since the guy he’s replacing, and if he comes up with some scheme to rethink the post-evening-news hour, I will be eager to see what it is. If Colbert wants to blow up the desk, give the man as much dynamite as he needs. But I wouldn’t underestimate the difference Colbert could make just by being himself.

TIME Know Right Now

Know Right Now: Colbert Signs Off

'Truthiness' on cable comes to an end

Comedy Central’s most vocal pundit, Stephen Colbert, hung up the towel Thursday, as he prepares to leave The Colbert Report after nine years to replace David Letterman on Late Night.

During Colbert’s tenure, he lambasted President Bush at the White House Correspondents Dinner, testified in front of Congress, led a march on Washington and even ran for President. On his show, he satirized the news of the day and newsmakers themselves. Each show ended with sportive interviews with famous writers, musicians, actors and, most recently, President Obama.

Watch today’s Know Right Now to find out more.

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