When David Letterman announced his retirement earlier this month, it almost immediately became evident that Craig Ferguson would not stick around late night television much longer himself. He never lobbied for Dave’s job, he seemed indifferent to the shifts in the landscape, and even as potential replacements for his show were tossed around, Craig Ferguson remained quiet, save for congratulating Stephen Colbert for landing the The Late Show. To be honest, I was a little concerned because, to me, it felt like Ferguson was getting steamrolled, and that CBS and Leslie Moonves were not giving him the respect he deserved for putting in a decade of amazing work with no complaint.
Turns out, Ferguson never had any interest in Dave’s job, nor in continuing his own show beyond this year. As Ferguson tells it, he’d already planned to leave. From Variety:
“It wasn’t contentious. I was just like, ‘I feel like I’m done. We were all fine and were tying up loose ends. And then Dave surprised everybody with the announcement and that threw a spanner in the works. And I had to sit and keep my mouth shut while speculation raged wildly.”
In fact, Ferguson wanted to leave over the summer, but CBS talked him into staying longer so that they could find a replacement, and Ferguson agreed if only so his staff could also find new jobs. He understands that no matter what he says, people are going to say that he was pushed out because of Dave’s retirement, but it’s really not the case, and he honestly had no designs on Dave’s job.
“I had no desire — none — to do that job,” Ferguson said. “I could barely keep it together at 12:30, never mind 11:30. Nobody wants to hear it. It’s so bizarre. People want it to be Jay and Dave or Jay and Conan or some kind of big story. That’s not me, that’s not what I want. I think what happens is that certain people want you to want it, and they want you to not get it. If that makes ‘em happy, well … It really wasn’t what I aspired to. Doing this job wasn’t something I aspired to, either. I kind of fell into this.”
What’s he going to do next? He has “ideas.” He plans to host a syndicated game show this fall, Celebrity Name Game and work on a few projects his production company has in the works over on the Science Channel and Discovery. But what he’s almost certainly not going to do is host another late-night talk show. “It just doesn’t feel like that’s the way I’m headed,” he said. And that’s fine. He gave us an outstanding decade of quirky, cerebral, low-key but brilliant work on The Late Late Show and I hope he at least gets the rousing send-off he deserves.