Colbert to play himself in 'Late Show' debut; will he still be loved?

Sun Sep 6, 2015 9:12am EDT
 
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By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Stephen Colbert has already declared his intention to drop the well-worn persona of the cluelessly pompous conservative pundit he invented for cable television when he debuts this week as host of the CBS "Late Show."

What remains to be seen is how an unfiltered Colbert will play as he makes the transition from a 30-minute Comedy Central show four nights a week to an hour-long slot five nights a week on a major broadcast network renovating the house that David Letterman built.

"When he doesn't have the disguise of being a fictional character, is the thing he does going to be likeable?" wondered Robert Thompson, founding director of Syracuse University's Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture.

By his own account, Colbert looks forward to interacting with guests as himself, rather than as through the alter ego he popularized on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" and its spinoff, "The Colbert Report."

"I'm looking forward to being sincerely interested in what they have to say without having to translate it through an idiot's mouth," he told a gathering of TV critics last month.

Beyond that, Colbert said, he just prays that Republican presidential contender Donald Trump stays in the race.

Colbert's degree of success will ultimately decide whether he ushers in a ratings realignment of the late-night TV scene - either by overtaking his NBC counterpart Jimmy Fallon and the decades-long dominance of "The Tonight Show," or falling to No. 3 behind ABC's "Jimmy Kimmel Live!"

Steering the "Late Show" franchise to No. 1 in the Nielsen rankings will not be easy.   Continued...

 
People try on souvenir hats beneath the marquee for "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" at the Ed Sullivan Theater in Manhattan, New York, August 21, 2015. Colbert is set to host the show, which was previously presented by David Letterman. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly - RTX1P489