by Julian Spivey
Nobody did a late night television show like Craig Ferguson. I don’t expect anybody ever will either. The comedian who had a special brand of “I-don’t-give-a-damn” absurdist humor mixed with an infectious, congenial personality called it quits as host of CBS’ ‘Late, Late Show’ on Friday, Dec. 19.
Ferguson’s style of late night comedy always had a cult following to it, as the ratings always seemed to suggest, with not everybody taking to the comedian’s wacky brand of performance. But, those who did tune in nightly to see his show for 10 years grew to greatly love Ferguson and his farewell certainly must have hit his fan base hard.
It was a mostly fantastic farewell though.
The series finale of Ferguson’s ‘Late, Late Show’ opened about as perfectly as one could have imagined with a performance of Dead Man Fall’s “Bang Your Drum” that started out with a bunch of celebrities and memorable guests of the show like Matthew McConaughey, Michael Sheen, Kristen Bell, Ray Romano and numerous others beating drums and dancing along. Then we entered the studio with dueling drummers and Craig Ferguson standing atop his desk with microphone in hand to perform the vocals for the rest of the song. It was a really touching performance and one that truly fits his personality and show in general. My only disappointment from this opening segment is I wish it had segued from “Bang Your Drum” into Ferguson doing an in-studio performance of his theme. Instead the series finale of the show went off without the best theme song on television in general.
As the show came back from commercial break into Ferguson’s monologue the show aired an impressive time lapse of Ferguson’s intros from his very first show in January of 2005 until the finale. Ferguson then entered the studio to quite possibly the longest standing ovation and loudest thunderous applause I’ve ever heard from an audience for a departing talk show host and I’ve seen ones for legends like Jay Leno, Conan O’Brien and Stephen Colbert just the night before.
My biggest issue with Ferguson’s finale was his one and only guest for the night: Jay Leno. I was disappointed about a month ago when I found out that Leno would be his final guest. This is a personal preference of mine and one that I wouldn’t be surprised if many other viewers disagree with. I’ve just never found Leno to be that funny and frankly dislike him for the way things have gone down in the past between him and David Letterman and Conan O’Brien when it came to the hosting gig of “The Tonight Show.” Despite me wishing that Ferguson had invited another guest for the finale the interview went off quite fine and even provided a few good laughs, like when the two long-time late night talk show hosts riffed on things about the job that annoyed them.
Most of the late night talk shows that I’ve seen end over the years have done so with great and emotional speeches by the hosts and it’s an ending that I really enjoy, but Ferguson basically did away with this as his monologue for the finale. Instead he chose a very unique way to end the show basically paying homage to some of the great finales of television history. It started with him revealing the man behind the Secretariat horse suit to be comedy legend Bob Newhart to which Newhart responded with the show being a dream. In homage to the terrific “Newhart” finale the ending shifted to a darkened bedroom where Ferguson in character as Mr. Wick from his days on the ABC sitcom “The Drew Carey Show” woke up from his dream to find husband Drew Carey in bed with him. The show then paid homage to “The Sopranos” finale with the playing of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” before culminating in a snow globe of the ‘Late, Late Show’ set that included Ferguson, his robot sidekick Geoff Peterson and Secretariat in a reference to the series finale of “St. Elsewhere.” It was definitely a pretty neat and interesting way to say goodbye to the lovable Scottish comedian.
Ferguson always liked to begin his show with the phrase “It’s a great day for America” in celebration of his American citizenship, which he memorably gained during his stint as the show’s host, and now that perhaps the most unique show to ever grace late night television has ended I have to say “It’s a sad day for America, everybody.” But, it was one helluva ride.