Dig Baton Rouge

East of the River: April 23, 2014

By Katie East

Late night is changing for Americans. Those familiar faces that appear before bedtime are looking not so familiar. In February, Jimmy Fallon took over the Tonight Show from Jay Leno after the latter’s 22-year stint on NBC. Now, TV’s longest-running late-night talk show host David Letterman has announced he too will be retiring in 2015. Last week, it was announced Comedy Central’s stalwart Stephen Colbert would be taking over at CBS.

This is a huge change for many Americans. Late-night television plays a huge part of a person’s daily ritual. That TV host is often the last face someone sees before they go to bed. For the last couple of decades you either saw Leno or Letterman’s; it’s extremely rare to see someone who splits their loyalty.

This is also a huge deal for the television industry. Late-night is so ingrained in a person’s nighttime customs; those viewers aren’t going to just go away. That leaves more than six million Americans who are forced to make a change. If there’s one thing I know about Americans, it’s that they hate change.

Ok fine, Obama got elected on a platform of change. I’m not saying all Americans hate change. Most have to be forced into it, though. Right now, late-night is already evolving. Why not push Americans and force them to think outside of the box when it comes to their late-night funny man? Why not choose a woman to fill those shoes, no matter how large and ill fitting they might be?

Ellen DeGeneres is America’s gay sweetheart. She would have been the perfect underdog to come in and steal Letterman’s seat. I can just imagine her celebrating to Katy Perry’s Dark Horse while her dancing DJ ups the diversity factor. She’s a gay female comedian from New Orleans whose bandleader rocks dreads. CBS would probably score some mega-subsidy and make her paycheck free. Hell, they’d probably win an Affirmative Action hall-of-fame placement. Plus, she’s just plain likeable.

I’m not saying Colbert is a bad choice. I’m actually excited to see him drop his super-conservative character and actually play himself. The only problem is his character is named Stephen Colbert too. So, will we ever really see “the” true Stephen Colbert? Talk-show hosts are expected to let the viewers into a piece of their home life. Take off the mask, Stephen Colbert! We need to know you to love you.

Do you know who’s not afraid to let viewers in? The effervescent Ellen, of course. She makes being a homosexual relatable to Americans that would otherwise never have exposure to the lifestyle. She’s like a modern-day gay Ghandi. She’s going to change the world for good with her kindness and dance.

The next decision for CBS will be where to film the show: New York or Los Angeles. This time, there might be another option besides the two standard locations. New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu sent a letter to CBS’ CEO pitching New Orleans as a possible host city to the new late show. You know who knows her way around New Orleans? Yeah yeah, you get the picture. (Ellen).

Again, I’m not saying Stephen Colbert won’t do a great job; I think he probably will. I’ve sat in the Colbert audience, and I’ve never seen a more professional performer in my life. But that’s the thing about being a talk-show host. You’re not performing; you’re just being yourself. I’m not sure if the “real” Stephen Colbert can do that. Unfortunately, you never know until the first show airs.

I fear CBS made their decision too quickly with Colbert. This is a huge decision for the television industry and Americans in general. I expected a long-drawn out interview process to go on behind closed doors. They’re replacing a man who has been in the position for over 30 years. I figured it would take more than a fortnight to pick a successor.

I was hoping for a handful of guest-hosts whose fate would be decided by America’s approval. Letterman isn’t leaving until 2015. Why did CBS feel the need to immediately appoint Colbert? We need to be wined and dined before we so quickly change who we let into our room before bedtime.

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