I will admit that when Craig Ferguson first took the reins of ‘The Late Late Show’ on CBS, I missed
Craig Kilborn. That feeling, though, would be short lived. Craig Ferguson had a bit of a bumpy start as a talk show host but soon found his footing and developed a quirky, off-beat sense of comedic art that will not be replicated any time soon.
The low budget of the show paired with the fact that it was owned by David Letterman’s production company — Worldwide Pants — meant that the show wasn’t going anywhere even if ratings fell to ‘Mulaney’-like levels. Low expectations often mean creative freedom and that is exactly what the quirky Scottish-born Ferguson took advantage of.
With a cast of oddball characters including a foul-mouthed assortment of puppets, the horse Secretariat, Geoff the skeleton robot, lip-synced songs and plenty of random dancing in what he referred to as a “dimly lit studio” gave the show the flavor it needed to be a success at 11:30 PM (CT).
Craig Ferguson could have easily been another talk show host with a band, a mildly edgy joke-filled monologue followed by two showbiz guests and a band to round out the hour but he took things a step further. Sometimes he had only one guest. There weren’t always bands on the show. And his interview style was one where it was conversational and he held nothing back. He made guests feel comfortable and made his producer feel uncomfortable by often times swearing which made Ferguson come across as more genuine than any late night talk show host before him.
Ferguson got the job because he had stand-up comedy chops and had already proven himself during his tenure on ‘The Drew Carey Show’. He was a dark horse and that made him even more likable and real.
It will be quite some time before another show is as uniquely different and genuine as ‘The Late Late Show’ with Craig Ferguson was. His ten year run, which ended Friday, will stand out as the pinnacle of 11:30 CT late night talk shows for quite some time as others strive to be lesser-known carbon copies of their 10:30 PM CT siblings.