"Late Show with
Merely by taking the job, Colbert has to navigate a lot of changes. An 11:30 p.m. network talk show has different needs -- some more weighty, some more frothy, some merely structural -- than does a basic cable show, or even a 12:30 a.m. network show. He has to establish his new, authentic self while giving the fans enough of what they used to like him for, without seeming to actually be the self-admiring pundit he used to portray; viewers have to learn a new language, learn to locate the new irony, which is somewhat differently seated than the old irony. (See his
Trump aside, some have found him wanting as an interviewer, and I would say that it's true that he hasn't yet mastered the art of seeming invested in the celebrity promotional wheel to which he has willingly, if helplessly been strapped; you can see him sometimes looking for a way in that feels, let's say, comedically dignified, just as he's been looking for a way to pitch products without seeming a total shill. And you never know what you're going to get back from the person you're interviewing; there is a learning curve involved that even years of in-character interrogations cannot prepare you for. Trump, for his part in that interview, was uncharacteristically subdued, where other recent guests like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren took up their talking points and ran.
As for viewers who miss "The Colbert Report," a huge chunk of it is for all intents and purposes set down within his new show's first half-hour, and it's reliably funny. What the host doesn't communicate yet is a sense of the show as a community, rather than as a platform. There is a lot of "I" in his speech and not so much "we," and it can make him seem big-headed in fact rather than just in comedy. But there seems to be an attempt to address this. And already there is nothing on network late-night quite like it: Last Thursday, with the pope in New York, he hosted a panel of well-known fellow Catholics -- journalists Andrew Sullivan and
"Frontline: My Brother's Bomber" (
"Trailblazing Women: Behind the Movies Ahead of Their Time" (TCM, Tuesdays and Thursdays throughout October). Turner Classic Movies, that revival house of the air, this month presents 54 films by or about female directors, from the silent film era -- including six works by turn-of-the-century French filmmaker Alice Guy-Blaché, said to be the first woman to write and direct a narrative film -- to long about now. On tap are movies by Frances Marion, Dorothy Arzner, Elaine May, Martha Coolidge, Joan Micklin Silver, Amy Heckerling, Susan Seidelman, Penny Marshall, Sarah Polley, Kathryn Bigelow, Nora Ephron, Ava DuVernay and others, including Barbara Loden, the first woman (it says here) to write, direct and star in her own feature film, the 1970 "Wanda." Some are famous, but all are names you would know better in a better world. Your host is TCM regular Illeana Douglas (a director as well as an actress, and the author of a charming, soon-to-be-published memoir -- a forthcoming forthcoming memoir -- "I Blame Dennis Hopper"); her co-hosts include Allison Anders, who directed her in "Grace of My Heart" (not programmed, sadly); Julie Dash ("Daughters of the Dust," Oct. 22); and Cari Beauchamp, author of "Without Lying Down: Frances Marion and the Power of Women in Hollywood," the basis of a documentary of the same name (Oct. 1).
"Adam Ruins Everything" (truTV, Tuesdays). The CollegeHumor Web series jumps intact to television, but with higher production values, built-out characters, a bigger cast and a longer running time. Like "Drunk History," another Internet import, it fills the half-hour by presenting what online would be three separate episodes -- and there were only ever four online episodes as far as I can tell -- and tying them together thematically; this series adds a kind of narrative throughline, in which host Adam Conover appears unbidden, like an annoying guardian angel, to "reveal the awful truth about a beloved part of your world" to a horrified Emily Axford and generally to harsh her mellow. The first episode concerns giving, and how you are doing it wrong, with segments on diamond engagement rings (a "tradition" invented by De Beers to move more diamonds), a remake of the first Web episode; Tom's Shoes' sell one/give one policy (clothes donations destroy Third World local business, also there is no Tom); and canned food drives (much of it thrown away, doesn't meet basic nutritional standards, better to give money). Informational sources (sometimes old enough to give pause) are shown onscreen. Experts are produced, like Marshall McLuhan in "Annie Hall." Conover, who with Emily Heller ("The Future with Emily Heller") also hosts Fresh Out! LA, a standup showcase at the