The last man to replace David Letterman, Conan O’Brien, came off like a jittery child in his debut. Over time, he became his own kind of late night hero, but that legacy was far from evident on that first night.
Stephen Colbert wasn’t jittery last night during the long-awaited premiere of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, he was energetic and confident in the midst of putting out a perfectly enjoyable hour of late night television, the result of having done this kind of thing for a long time. So, is it time to fit Colbert for a crown and name him as the new King of Late Night? No, it’s entirely too early to make that determination. After all, last night wasn’t a portrait of Colbert as The Late Show host. It wasn’t even the first brush stroke of a massive mural — it was the first bristle touching the wall. But, with that said, there are some things about the premiere that are worth discussing.
Jon Stewart + Stephen Colbert = Friends Forever
The Jon Stewart cameo was perhaps inevitable, but certainly enjoyable. That moment at the end when Stewart’s name came up on the screen as an executive producer, though? That was a bit of a surprise.
It’s also interesting because, years after signing a holding deal with Letterman in the ’90s, and after enduring years of rumors that he would leave The Daily Show to one day replace Letterman, Jon Stewart finally got a piece of The Late Show… or at least the premiere episode.
James Corden had a little more fun with CBS’ still bizarre decision to put Mentalist reruns on at 11:35 in the absence of fresh Late Show episodes, but Colbert having a little fun at his bosses’ expense is, as he later alluded to, the best tribute to David Letterman he could do. Especially in that the placement of CBS CEO Leslie Moonves in the audience with a big comedic lever looked like the kind of thing an in-his-prime Letterman would have put on the air.