KSUBuzz Columnist: CBS needs Colbert but doesn’t need the Report’s persona

Katy Coduto

It’s official: Stephen Colbert is taking over for David Letterman at CBS’s “Late Show” starting next year. This comes only days after Letterman announced his retirement, and Colbert was almost instantly the frontrunner for the position. The Colbert Report host’s representation had casually arranged his contracts with Comedy Central so that they lined up with Letterman’s at CBS — meaning that, when Letterman decided to retire, Colbert would have little trouble moving from one channel to the other.

Sure enough, everything has fallen into place for Colbert, CBS and Comedy Central. CBS easily courted Colbert, who wanted the job as long as Letterman gave his blessing. Comedy Central now has a chance to move up “At Midnight” host Chris Hardwick while also adding more talent.

There’s going to be a slight domino effect in late night TV in the coming weeks, and CBS’s top dog, Les Moonves, certainly has to be excited at what a Colbert-hosted late night show might mean for the network.

With recent shakeups at NBC pitting Jimmy Fallon against Letterman, Fallon has been shining as the new anchor of the Tonight Show. He’s absolutely dominating in the 18-49 year old demographic, which is the demographic that everyone’s chasing after. So Fallon’s dominance is making NBC the new late-night viewing destination, while Letterman lags behind in the ratings. Even in overall numbers, Fallon beats Letterman.

CBS needs something new; CBS needs a fresh face.

CBS needs Stephen Colbert.

CBS does not need the host of “The Colbert Report.”

And that’s going to be one of the most interesting aspects of Colbert’s transition from Comedy Central to CBS. On Comedy Central, Colbert plays a character. He portrays an extreme right-wing “blowhard,” and he not only takes unusual angles on stories but even actively engages with brands and advertising in his show. Everything he has done as the host of “The Colbert Report” for the last nine years has been an act. It’s been a parody of the job that he’s now jumping to.   

Plenty of viewers may tune in during those first weeks with Colbert as host and expect much of the same. However, they won’t get that same exact brand of humor. For the first time, we’re going to have a chance to see the real Stephen Colbert. As a collective audience, we’ll get to peel back the layers of Colbert’s personality and see who he really is and what he’s really like. Colbert has always been a gracious interviewer and, despite maintaining a façade, has managed to bring in a number of notable individuals, from authors and politicians to movie stars and musicians. He’s only going to get better as he’s allowed to be himself and interact with his guests honestly.

CBS needs Stephen Colbert, the real, honest Stephen Colbert. He’s going to give CBS a much needed boost — especially by the end of this year — and he brings the added bonus of the unexpected. He’s going to be different, and he’s going to be great.

Katy Coduto

KSUBuzz Columnist