Friday, April 11, 2014

The confines of Colbert (and why I'll miss them)

I'm sorry to do this again. But I'm seriously fixated on the Stephen Colbert move and no amount of distraction seems to be helping. It's affecting my overall mood in ways that it shouldn't. Maybe getting all my thoughts out about it will.

Supposedly, Colbert increasingly felt confined by his character and wants to branch out from it. I wonder when that fatigue kicked in (he hid it well, assuming it happened before this week). I understand professional burnout, but it's still sad from this fan's viewpoint. I can only be comforted so much by how "prestigious" the move is for his personal resume. His comfort is satire's huge loss. 

The consensus is that Colbert will now be able to show off his other talents. Which sounds fine in theory, because they are indeed plentiful (as we've seen on the Colbert Report and other TV appearances). But...

Last week on Saturday Night Live, Anna Kendrick hosted. It was a dynamite episode that had me laughing out loud a lot. Pharrell Williams' musical performances were solid as well. But the episode's opening monologue was the weakest link by far. In recent years, SNL has leaned heavily on musical numbers in the monologues. That's cool when the host is a singer or it's otherwise ridiculous in a funny way. But all too often, they resort to a "Hey! I'm hosting SNL!" song, which always seem written mainly to fill time. They don't bring the funny or make a point. I'm relieved when someone like Louis C.K. comes on and actually performs a funny, biting monologue (or just funny; the bite is a bonus).

Maybe that's just me. I gravitate toward bite much more than song-and-dance. I suspect Colbert's new show will be much more song-and-dance than bite. And while Colbert is a shockingly talented performer, it's still going to take a lot on his part to convince me that this move is an upgrade. (If he just wants to coast, he could admit that, as many fans seem to think he's entitled to rest on his laurels.)

Colbert owes me, one insignificant fan, nothing, and never has. But it still hurts. I got through less than two minutes of The Daily Show last night before I turned it off. I couldn't take the cheering or the images of Colbert (even glimpsing the departing David Letterman makes me sad). 

I typically mock people who get emotionally invested in TV shows. Even with the few shows I like, I rarely lament them when they're gone. I pride myself on having a real life. So I'm surprised that I feel this strongly about Colbert. But I do. I guess because I've long felt America needs that show, and more like it. They serve a purpose, and most of all I love them. And to see it go for one of my least-favorite reasons — mainstream fortune and glory — makes it doubly painful.

Like I've been saying, I think Colbert will be a fine host and the Late Show will thrive, as it did during Letterman's finest hours. But it will never be the same. Indeed, it's already different. 

Whether that's a better different remains to be seen.

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