When David Letterman did his final show on May 20, the folks at CBS had a question on their hands: What do we do with the 11:35 time slot? Stephen Colbert’s show doesn’t begin until September 8, so that’s three and a half months of programming to come up with. They could’ve gone with Letterman reruns, or maybe even some classic episodes from the ’90s, but they instead decided to replace Letterman with reruns of The Mentalist.
An episode of The Mentalist has aired in the 11:35 time slot every weeknight since Letterman’s departure. If you think that’s a bit strange, James Corden, who now has a rerun of the Simon Baker drama as his lead-in every night, agrees with you. On Tuesday and Wednesday, he started his show with a segment called “Talking Mentalist,” a spoof of Chris Hardwick’s Talking Dead, in which he and his guests discuss the finer details of the Mentalist rerun that just aired. The second night, he even gave us “Talking Talking Mentalist,” which should be self-explanatory.
This could just be a fun bit of absurdity on Corden’s part, but it could also be a subtle protest of CBS’s decision making (which would be a very Letterman thing to do). Sure, Corden came out emphatically against the idea that he would have wanted to move up to 11:30 in the valley between Letterman and Colbert during an interview with Vulture, but it would have undeniably been a shot of exposure and a good thing for his young show. And let’s be honest, airing a Mentalist rerun in front of Corden’s show is not the best thing for him. Seth Meyers has Jimmy Fallon as a lead-in. There are plenty of loyal Fallon viewers who will say, “Yeah, I guess I’ll watch Seth for a while, too,” but there likely aren’t too many people who would consider a Mentalist rerun appointment television, then decide to leave the TV on for Corden.
Will Corden go back to doing “Talking Mentalist,” or is he through having his fun? Did CBS get the message (if there was one), and is it possible they might adjust the schedule and put something more appropriate in front of Corden like Big Bang Theory reruns or some other comedy program? Also, in the grand scheme of things, with a late night show that’s often viewed in pieces the morning after and not in the classic way, does it even matter who Corden’s lead-in is? Time will tell, but “Talking Mentalist” is Corden’s funniest bit yet and a prime example of how willing his show is to experiment.