I remember the first time I ever watched a Late Night show. It was the first episode of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. I remember him coming out beyond the blue curtains. I remember him introducing The Roots. And then…I watched him bomb. Like. Bomb, guys. It took him a while to finally take the show in stride. A long while. But by year 3, he was owning everything. That’s the Late Night show tradition. The first show is usually bad. So it’ll take a year to not only find an audience, but for the show to find itself. I mean, look how big Jimmy Fallon is now. Remember: he was bombing his first months on Late Night.
So after watching Jimmy (and his successor Seth Meyers), it was easy to at least understand that Week One of The Late Late Show with James Corden would undergo the same issues. Not only would Corden host any type of show for the first time, but he’s also hosting in a new country, with a completely different vocabulary and a different sense of comedy than across the pond. So watching a man from the United Kingdom try to do American humor doesn’t seem like the greatest idea. We already have two, with one previously hosting the Golden Globes more than once, and the other over on HBO hosting his own show. How many British guys could possibly be good at hosting?
Plus, before the show premiered, reports were flying out that his rehearsal performances were not going well. People were finding it difficult to understand him, found him boring, and not different enough from other hosts. These were big warning signs. So, coming into March 23rd, I was waiting for it. I was waiting for James Corden — a man I’ve grown to respect from his Tony-winning performance in One Man, Two Guvnors, two appearances in Doctor Who, and two seasons of Hulu’s The Wrong Mans — to bomb. Hard.
Then 11:35pm happened. Reggie Watts sang in James Corden. And thus begun, in my opinion, the best Late Show pilot I’d ever seen.
And it wasn’t just the first episode that ended up being solid. All 3 episodes of last week ended up being very well received. I had to say, content-wise, the show could rival Fallon’s more than Meyer’s. Heck, it could rival Letterman (until he leaves). Now, this is not to say there weren’t any issues, because there were. But this week was easily better than any show I’ve watched from Conan, Seth Meyers, or Letterman. Ratings aside, Corden is here to stay. For real.
Let’s start with James Corden’s monologue. Day One was mainly him introducing himself and came out completely genuine. He obviously watched Fallon’s first day on the Tonight Show, because it was the same move Fallon used on his first day. But Day Two and Three begun his traditional monologue of taking one subject, and rolling with it for a monologue segment. While Day three’s monologue, Beer Taps in Gas Stations, was a great-point, yet poorly-executed piece (the laughs were there, but the audience wasn’t having it for some reason), Day Two’s monologue destroyed. Corden couldn’t believe our apathy toward the announcement that California was a year away from being out of water. So his monologue, the biggest issue people thought Corden would have, was more than okay.
Now, the sketches. All of them (but one) were home runs. Mystery Pizza Box? Hilarious. Mariah Carey singing her own song and more in a carpool? Pretty great. Tom Hanks’s whole career in 7 minutes? Even MORE hilarious (a week later, 11 million YouTube views already). So he’s obviously winning on those ends. Now, he’s not perfect. The sketch with Chris Pine and Patricia Arquette being in a soap opera was horrible. Also, the game show with Will Ferrell and Kevin Hart wasn’t fantastic. But overall, he’s doing very well in the sketch compartment.
Thirdly, the guest segments. In a similar way to Graham Norton’s style (the Jay Leno of British Late Night…or more like Johnny Carson in popularity), Corden interviews all his guest at the same time. He introduces the audience to today’s guest by setting a camera in each guest’s green room, having fun with them for about 30 seconds before bringing them out. Then brings both of them out (via the audience crowd) onto the couch. The interviews could be a hit or miss thing, but so far so good. Day One and Day Three were the best parings (Mila Kunis & Tom Hanks; Kevin Hart & Will Ferrell) just in comedy alone. However, that’s not to say Day Two’s guest (Patricia Arquette & Chris Pine) were bad, but the chemistry was the weakest of the bunch. Corden does have individual questions for each guest, but the other guest can now ask questions. And since it’s unfiltered, it may cause issues down the road. Bad interview days will happen, but the fun will be much more rewarding when pulled off. Also, I really like the nice touch of James Corden pulling out his chair from his desk to sit closer to his guests.
Lastly, the music. I won’t talk musical guests, because it’s so subjective. But. Can we talk about James Corden’s theme song by Reggie Watts? It’s amazing! It gets stuck in your head! It definitely rivals The Roots’ theme from Fallon. However, I will say the show could use a lot more of Reggie. I’m sure they’ll be more sketches with him involved and Reggie doesn’t have his name on the door (so it’s not like he’s supposed to have a lot of airtime). But I wished they did more segments together, much like Fallon and Steve Higgins.
So, overall, James Corden’s premiere week was pretty good. Way better than I thought it would be, and more fun than I thought too. He still has some awkward stuff (he’s more comfortable in pre-recorded bits than live skits/interviewing), but that’s just experience. He ain’t Chris Rock. He can’t just walk on stage and be amazing from Day One.
But that’s the thing. Most first days for the Late Late Shows start off tragically. Hosts bomb on monologues, can’t connect as well to guests, and don’t have good skits or segments in the beginning. Corden just started and it’s already pretty good.
Could you imagine how good he’ll be a year from now?
What did you guys think?