With the news that Stephen Colbert is replacing David Letterman as host of “The Late Show,” the inevitable question from moviedom is: What does this mean for us?
Studios and personal publicists have long figured out how to handle Letterman, for all his oddities, and big movie stars regularly make appearances there, even if it doesn’t always go smashingly.
"The Colbert Report" has been a different story. Actors from big releases, that staple of late-night chat shows, don’t often turn up on the Colbert series.
That’s partly by design of the show, which likes things a little quirkier, and partly by dint of the studios themselves, who know that Colbert is a bit more niche and, given his persona, doesn’t exactly give you a huge platform to chat up clips and talk about the blast you had on set ad nauseum.
If he does have movie people on, it’s more likely to be a director, and not always a mainstream one -- Godfrey Reggio and Errol Morris have appeared there this year, along with more known quantities such as Alexander Payne and Darren Aronofsky.
A move to CBS in that crucial early late-night slot changes that. At the very least it raises the stakes—after all, man can't live by Fallon alone—and also raises the larger question of how the show will unfold. If Colbert goes more mainstream and drops some of the in-character, frequently political persona, studios might follow. But if he keeps with what made him successful, it could be a trickier fit.
Because here's the thing: Most parts of the studio-release machine like the easy approaches of genial late-night hosts, not the edgy meta stuff that Colbert does so well and in fact makes him so funny. How Colbert fills the chair will go a long way toward determining who’s on his couch.