So, Stephen Colbert is taking over for David Letterman. Colbert is a fine actor, comedian, interviewer-even a good song and dance man, I'm told. And it's those talents that will be on display as star of "Late Night." His choice as successor to Letterman does not portend tectonic changes at media megalith CBS, which airs the program. His slyly transgressive persona will be persona non grata.
Can anyone believe that CBS will adapt it's basic economic structure to accommodate Colbert's shtick as a left-liberal masquerading as a right wing wingnut? Will they happily sacrifice a broad swath of their demographic, as the good natured political ribbing that has dominated the show-with resounding financial success-goes right in the dumper and the character Colbert played on Comedy Central is given free range to acerbically dissect the foibles of the American power structure? Rather than the usual fawning treatment, will the cavalcade of Hollywood guests (whose movies are produced and distributed by the same company that owns CBS) now be in for the kind of ironic diss served up on the Colbert Report?
Sure, it could happen. If the sponsors of the Late Show decide they'll be happy to pay the same rates for a smaller and smaller but hipper and hipper audience. I'd be surprised. More likely, they will shave down Colbert's canines and reduce his bitter irony to a wholesome pap. Not too quickly, though. No doubt the network, the sponsors and producers will devise a strategy to woo Colbert's old viewers while reassuring the mainstream audience by slowly mutating Colbert from his current complex persona into something with the ring of the renegade, as has been perfected by the ad industry to sell jeans.
Colbert might change the multi-billion dollar culture of late night TV; and Chris Christie might get a job as a tolltaker on the George Washington bridge, but I'm afraid my money's on Proctor and Gamble, Mercedez Benz and Sheldon Adelstein. There's just too much money at stake. Meanwhile, good luck, Colbert, we love you, er we love your persona, we think we love you, but we hope that what we love is really you [voice trails off to infinite recursion]...