April 29, 2014
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Craig Ferguson victim of bad timing
By Bill Harris, QMI Agency

CBS handout photo

As a Scotsman, Craig Ferguson is taking the high road, as the old song goes.

But the graceful-on-the-surface exit of Ferguson from the North American late-night TV landscape reaffirms for me that timing is a bitch in comedy.

Ferguson took over as host of The Late Late Show (12:30 a.m., CBS, OMNI) back in 2005, and it was four or five years ago, I guess, that Ferguson really was seen as “hot.” Observers marvelled at his casual style. It seemed as if he were making everything up as he went along. He wasn't, of course, but the result still was an atmosphere that was infectious.

Ferguson was late-night TV's worst-kept/best-kept secret. Many saw him as a logical successor to David Letterman on The Late Show (11:30 p.m., CBS, OMNI). But you just don't stay “hot” forever, no matter what you do. Sometimes comedians stick with bits and shticks for too long. What once seemed fresh suddenly can seem stale.

Had Letterman retired four years ago, would Craig Ferguson be the new host of The Late Show? Maybe. Who knows? As it stands, Letterman has announced he's retiring next year, Stephen Colbert has been named as Letterman's replacement, and apparently Ferguson never seriously was considered for the gig.

So Ferguson announced on his show Monday that he will be stepping down at the end of this calendar year.

A warped version of this happened with Conan O'Brien. He was “hot” when it was announced a few years ahead of time that he would be taking over from Jay Leno on The Tonight Show. By the time O'Brien actually moved to The Tonight Show, he wasn't quite so “hot” any more. Of course, that's not the only reason it didn't work out. But I think it was a contributing factor, for sure, perhaps emboldening Leno to “stick around” to see what would happen.

Anyway, with Ferguson headed for game-show hosting, there will be an outcry for his replacement on The Late Late Show to be a woman. Yes, I do think that would be a good idea. But please, nobody with Saturday Night Live roots. Enough already.

As for Ferguson, I will miss his easygoing charm and quick wit. From the perspective of “hot” versus “not,” perhaps he's getting out at the right time. But nonetheless, it's a significant achievement to have lasted close to a decade on the bonnie banks of late-night TV.




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