When it was first announced James Corden would take over from Craig Ferguson as host of The Late Late Show on CBS I remember feeling perplexed. It seem to come completely out of left field. Despite success on Broadway and his beloved Gavin & Stacey being remade with American ascents (the Fox remake was never shown) James Corden is far from known on that side of the pond. In fact, I lived in California for 15yrs and I think I might be more of a recognizable face lurking around the CBS studio lot than Corden is. It’s fair to say the big wigs at CBS took a massive gamble hiring a fresh, unknown face to fill the shoes of the great Craig Ferguson. But, to their credit CBS have seemed to be behind Corden from the start. The show has been advertised continually, almost to the point where viewers would feel they needed to tune in if only to see what all the fuzz about. They’ve cleverly played off of the fact that Corden is unknown and introduced him slowly to the the unsure American public.
In my long time living the States I’ve seen the majority of our UK stars try to launch their successful careers stateside. Everyone from Ant & Dec, Trinny & Susannah, Graham Norton to name but a few. Most have come home with their tails between their showbiz legs and focused on their UK careers. My hopes for Corden’s success weren’t high, I didn’t want to write him off but I know how ruthless US execs can be in their hunt to find a ratings winner (even when the show airs after midnight!)
As I sat down to his first show I felt for him. The pressure must have been immense. Almost like starting from scratch, all his previous achievements, BAFTA’s, Comedy Awards, Tony’s counting for nothing. With no actual experience of hosting a chat show I can’t imagine the nerves he felt as he stood behind the famous Late Late Show curtain.
However, when Corden emerged for his opening monologue I was in for a lovely surprise. He seemed very relaxed, self deprecating, promising the audience he’d do everything in his power to put a smile on their faces and not let them down. This was someone who knew he was in an interesting/privileged position. He introduced himself to the audience, telling them about his family, his roots and even fought back tears when talking to his parents who sat beaming in the audience. The whole thing felt well organised and well thought out. A clever sketch further poked fun at how he landed the job featuring some very impressive cameos from people Jay Leno, Simon Cowell, Chris Rock and Arnold Schwarzenegger showcased Corden as an actor and set the tone warmer late night show.
Then it was time for the guests. Tom Hanks and Mila Kunis. Unlike his rivals Corden and his team decided to seat his guests together in the same way Graham Norton does, and rather than sitting behind the standard desk, Corden sat opposite them. It worked well enough, but much like with Norton this format only really works when the guests on the sofa gel, if they don’t it could be the show’s undoing.
A clever sketch saw Corden and Hanks reenacting some of his iconic film roles behind a blue screen. This worked well too, allowing Corden to relax and have fun. The show ended uniquely too, with Corden sitting behind a piano and singing about his first show. US critics have praised Corden’s warm nature and the relaxed nature of the show so it would seem his biggest hurdle is behind him.
His job now is to keep up that momentum five nights a week! It wasn’t as straight laced as some of the other late night shows and if he can keep up the momentum I think Corden has a chance of only coming back to the UK for Christmases.