Big breaking entertainment news: CBS has announced that Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert — the guy that Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly said is “destroying America” after Colbert destroyed him in segment — will replace David Letterman when Letterman retires:
CBS named Stephen Colbert to succeed David Letterman as host of “The Late Show,” handing the reins of its flagship latenight program to a cable host who has found success in attracting young male viewers by playing a character, rather than himself.
When Colbert sits behind the desk of the CBS program, as he is set to do at a currently undetermined date in 2015, he will likely do it in unvarnished fashion, not as the right-wing caricature he plays in his current perch on Comedy Central. CBS said creative elements, producers and even the location of the show will be announced at a later date.
And yet, it is that inventiveness CBS is likely banking on to help it gain in the ongoing late-night wars.
Indeed, Colbert will be the Eye’s entry into a race that has already started. Both ABC and NBC have already turned their latenight programming over to younger hosts – Jimmmy Kimmel for the Alphabet and Jimmy Fallon at the Peacock. Colbert will have to hit the ground running, mastering a new format while trying to maintain the current fan base that has made his “Colbert Report” a mainstay for the Viacom-owned network.
GO HERE to read my take on Letterman’s symbolism in both his comedy and in generational terms.
Colbert, whose current contract expires at year end, signed a five-year deal to host the show, which will begin when Letterman decides to step down when his contract expires in August 2015, though he could choose to leave earlier next year.
“Simply being a guest on David Letterman’s show has been a highlight of my career,” Colbert said in a statement. “I never dreamed that I would follow in his footsteps, though everyone in late night follows Dave’s lead. I’m thrilled and grateful that CBS chose me. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go grind a gap in my front teeth.”
Colbert, 49, was an early favorite to succeed Letterman, 66, who last week announced plans to step down next year after a 33-year career in late night, including the last 11 on CBS, which he joined after losing to Jay Leno in his quest to replace another legend, Johnny Carson.
Colbert introduced his mock-conservative blowhard persona as a correspondent on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and got his own show (produced by Stewart) in 2005, which competes with Letterman at 11:30 ET/PT four nights a week but has a much higher concentration of the younger viewers that networks seek. CBS isn’t talking yet about location, producer or “specific creative elements” of the new show, but Colbert is likely to shed that persona, which would be difficult to sustain in an hourlong network talk show.
“Stephen Colbert is one of the most inventive and respected forces on television,” CBS Chairman and CEO Les Moonves said in a statement Thursday. “David Letterman’s legacy and accomplishments are an incredible source of pride for all of us here, and today’s announcement speaks to our commitment of upholding what he established for CBS in late night.”