Devin and I gathered our thoughts on the role of pop culture going forward in an era when the truth is a lie, facts are fiction and Donald Trump is the president of the United States. Plus: It’s our 100th episode! Quite a milestone for us.
Further reading: Alyssa Rosenberg on the importance of representation; Caroline Framke on Jimmy Fallon and Seth Meyers’ shows since the election; Todd VanDerWerff on the perils of overly simplistic pop culture criticism; Ira Madison III on Get Out; Mikael Wood on Lady Gaga.
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I’ve never met Anna Kendrick. I don’t know what she wants out of life. Maybe she’s content with what she’s doing now. But as a pop culture consumer and general appreciator of her output, I want more.
My proposal: next time a late-night talk show host departs, Anna Kendrick should (at least be in talks to) replace him. (Or her…but Samantha Bee just started this year and has been killing it on TBS. Leave her bee.)
This proposal is far-fetched and unlikely for several reasons. None of the late-night hosts appear close to the end of their respective tenures. Kendrick is a Movie Star settled somewhere between the A- and B-lists, and to the best of my knowledge, she’s never expressed interest in a full-time, nightly gig. And, most unfortunately, television networks, presently and historically, don’t have a great history, or much of a history at all, of hiring women for such positions.
As I wrote when The Late Show with Stephen Colbert premiered last Tuesday — was it really such a short time ago? — late-night shows are evolving creatures. To judge them on their first episode is the equivalent of evaluating a new employee on his first day of work. To judge them after two weeks still isn’t entirely fair, but the nine Late Show episodes that have aired so far give a slightly more accurate picture of what the appeals and setbacks of this show are, might be and could become.
The standard caveat with the analysis that follows: The Late Show with Stephen Colbert will almost certainly look very different in six months’ time. Many of the people involved with making the show likely already have a sense of its flaws, even if they haven’t come up with practical fixes yet. These opinions are subject to change without warning.
Midway through the first episode of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, the host did a bit in which he both satirized the media’s obsessive coverage of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump and admitted that he’s powerless to avoid doing his own obsessive coverage. Colbert promised his audience he would only eat one Oreo, symbolizing one Trump joke. But the Oreos were so enticing, and the pleasure from ingesting them so rewarding, that he couldn’t help but indulge in one, then another, then half the box at once, and then a second box.
This bit was superficially about Trump, but it’s also a symbol of what Colbert’s trying to do, and what he’ll have to do, with this new show. For nine years on Comedy Central, Colbert cultivated an unprecedented strain of politically-infused comedy so draining that he’s told multiple interviewers that he had planned to leave the show even if CBS hadn’t come calling. But replacing David Letterman, in timeslot if not in substance, is an opportunity for Colbert to flex different muscles and achieve a childhood dream.
David Letterman signed off without a tear in his eye or a break in his voice. The final hour-and-change looked back fondly on some of the silliest highlights of Letterman’s television career and ignored most of the darkness that sometimes pervaded the legendary host’s broadcasts.
It was exactly right.
Listen to this week’s M&M Report here.
This week on The M&M Report, Devin Mitchell and I discussed David Letterman’s retirement announcement, our mixed feelings about the modern obsession with superhero movies and our opposing perspectives on Matt Zoller Seitz’s recently published manifesto “Please, Critics, Write About the Filmmaking.”
David Letterman and late-night — 0:57 – 19:00
Captain America: The Winter Soldier (completely spoiler-free) — 19:50 – 26:15
Debating Matt Zoller Seitz’s film/TV criticism piece — 26:20 – end
On Monday night at 11:35pm on NBC, Jimmy Fallon will reverse the long-held truism that you have to sell out to get ahead.
Five years ago, Jimmy Fallon took over for Conan O’Brien as host of Late Night. O’Brien went on to host The Tonight Show for nine months, until a complicated and unfortunate series of circumstances forced him to abandon his post, collect a tidy sum of money and hightail it to TBS, where his show has hummed along at a consistently acceptable ratings pace.
Meanwhile, Fallon kept his mouth shut. He claimed he was just happy to be where he was. He did what Leno never did – he messed around. He showcased his musical talents and invited his celebrity guests to share in his passion for silliness. He experimented with big-budget parodies of popular TV shows. He cracked an egg on Tom Cruise’s head. He rapped the hits with Justin Timberlake once, then twice, then twice more. He slow-jammed the news with Brian Williams, Gov. Chris Christie, Gov. Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama. He incorporated social media more deftly than any late-night host before or since. And he had a lot of fun.