by Julian Spivey
The late night television landscape is changing almost by the night it seems with all four of the late night television series on CBS and NBC changing hosts over the last two years, with the last of those coming when Stephen Colbert debuts on CBS’ ‘Late Show’ next month.
Hosts have been playing around with format changes to a medium that’s typically been very structured from start to finish: monologue, comedy, interview, musical guest.
Late night shows have always begun with your standard stand-up comedy style monologue, but Seth Meyers, host of NBC’s ‘Late Night’ is playing around with that standard now and likely doing away with it on his show.
Meyers isn’t nixing his show’s monologue, that would probably be too much of a change and a negative one, but he is changing the way he does it starting with his most recent episode on Monday, August 10.
Meyers is playing around with the idea of doing a sit down monologue, similar to what he did for nearly a decade as anchor or co-anchor on the “Saturday Night Live” mid-show staple Weekend Update.
In fact, when Meyers began hosting ‘Late Night’ about a year and a half ago he seemed very awkward doing the monologue at the beginning of the show. Maybe he wasn’t necessarily awkward at doing it, but it was certainly a weird experience for television viewers used to seeing him do jokes from behind a desk on Weekend Update.
It got less awkward watching Meyers’ monologues as the show went on, but he still didn’t seem 100 percent right doing them. The best part of Meyers’ monologues over his first year and a half haven’t even necessarily been the jokes themselves, but the little interjections thrown in between jokes where Meyers is just riffing or improv-ing. Meyers has always been similar to Conan O’Brien when it comes to this – his improvising between jokes has always been better than the joke writing itself.
Meyers must feel more comfortable in the Weekend Update style of joke telling that he did for so many years on ‘SNL,’ because on Monday night’s episode of ‘Late Night’ Meyers walked directly to his desk on the ‘Late Night’ stage instead of giving the traditional monologue standing up in front of the curtain. He began telling jokes with graphics of the individuals he was mocking appearing on the screen above his shoulder, as they do on Weekend Update.
Meyers has told Variety that the monologue change is going to be done as a two-week trial period, but the detour in strategy is likely to become the norm for his show.
It’ll be interesting to see how viewers take to this rather different change in the style of late night programming. Meyers’ competitor James Corden, host of CBS’ ‘Late, Late Show,’ has also played with the traditional late night format in his first six months on television by interviewing all of his nightly guests at the same time. That deviation from the norm has been taken well by viewers of his show. Maybe the same will hold true for Meyers’ viewers?