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Series / The Late Late Show

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A late-night television show on CBS, airing from January 9, 1995, to April 27, 2023, directly following The Late Show.

When David Letterman made his high-profile move from NBC to CBS in 1993 in the wake of being passed over to succeed Johnny Carson as host of The Tonight Show, CBS not only gave Letterman the 11:35 PM Eastern time slot to create his own hosted talk show, but the subsequent 12:37 AM time slot as well, meaning that the two time slots following the late night local newscasts were now under the control of Worldwide Pants. Letterman offered the show to Garry Shandling, and NBC sportscaster Bob Costas, who was a veteran of late-night hosting, having helmed NBC's Later from 1988 to 1994; both of them declined for varying reasonsnote .

Letterman then decided to offer the show to broadcast veteran Tom Snyder, whom Letterman greatly admired, and felt he owed a favor to, as Snyder's The Tomorrow Show was cancelled by NBC when Letterman's Late Night hit the air in 1981. CBS executives, however, wanted someone younger (Snyder was already in his late 50s), and someone who had a background in comedy. Letterman - as well as co-creator and executive producer Peter Lassally - insisted on Snyder, and eventually won out in August of 1994, with The Late Late Show with Tom Snyder premiering on CBS on January 9, 1995 from Studio 58 at CBS Television City in Los Angeles, though he would do the occasional show from New York City. Snyder's Late Late followed the same format of his aforementioned Tomorrow, as well as the Costas-era Later, in the fact that it was an intimate one-on-one interview series with no studio audience, no house band, and no announcer. It was also unique among late-night talk shows as it was aired live in the Eastern and Central time zones, with the audio feed being broadcast across the country on CBS Radio, allowing listeners in the Western United States to catch the show without having to wait until the late night hours. Much like Larry King, Snyder also took calls from viewers and listeners, which was the reason for the unique TV-and-radio simulcast.

However, Snyder's Late Late heavily trailed its direct NBC counterpart, Late Night with Conan O'Brien in the ratings (though, there was absolutely no animosity between the two, as Snyder flew to New York to interview O'Brien in 1998). In 1998, CBS once again asserted that Snyder be replaced when his contract expired in September of 1999; Snyder would announce that he would leave Late Late sometime in 1999, though well before his contract ran out. Whether or not CBS wanting to replace him so eagerly drove him to leave is anyone's guess. Almost immediately, Worldwide Pants selected Craig Kilborn - at the time hosting Comedy Central's The Daily Show - to replace Snyder. Snyder's last Late Late Show as host aired on March 26, 1999. In 2000, Snyder would be one of the guest hosts of The Late Show while Letterman recovered from heart surgery. Snyder's theme song was composed and performed by saxophonist David Sanborn, who played in Letterman's World's Most Dangerous Band on Late Night.

Kilborn began his run four days later, on March 30, 1999. His successor at The Daily Show, of course, was Jon Stewart, who had been one of Snyder's guest hosts (Kilborn had also interviewed Stewart on TDS multiple times). Kilborn's Late Late Show leaned into the traditional late night talk show fare, bringing in a studio audience, though still no house band, and Kilborn himself would be his own announcer, though he would have his voice modulated. His main segment was "In the News", which of course, was like The Daily Show, where he would put a humorous spin on the day's headlines; for a brief time in 2001, this segment was retitled "The World of Whimsy" in the wake of the September 11th attacks. Other segments included a Fridays-only segment called "What Up?" where Kilborn and three guests would discuss the week's news. Another segment was the recurring "Tuesdays with Buddy", where Kilborn would interview Buddy Hackett about his career. Kilborn had two different theme songs during his tenure: the first was composed and performed by Crowded House lead singer Neil Finn, and the second was done by Chris Isaak.

In August of 2004, Kilborn shocked everyone - especially his bosses - by announcing that he would not renew his contract, and step down at the end of the month, his final show airing on August 27. He would later say that the late night time slot was "too crowded" (whatever that means) for him to succeed. Executive producer Lassally, however, claimed that Kilborn left for the oldest reason of them all: money.

With Kilborn's departure being so sudden, CBS and Worldwide Pants had no successor to put in his place, so, they would spend the rest of the year having various celebrities guest host, using these episodes as on-air auditions. The plan was to have named a successor by October 2004, but this ended up extending into December. The auditions began on September 20 with Drew Carey, whose long-running ABC sitcom had aired its series finale just 12 days earlier. Following Carey were Jim Gaffigan, Jason Alexander, and Tom Arnold, just to name a few. After more than 20 guest hosts took to the chair, four finalists were named: then-MTV VJ Damien Fahey, and comedians Michael Ian Black, D.L. Hughley, and Craig Ferguson, Carey's Drew Carey Show co-star. Each finalist would host a week of shows, then CBS and Worldwide Pants would make their decision. Of the four, Ferguson impressed Lassally the most, and so, upon his recommendation, Letterman selected the Scotsman, with the announcement of his hiring coming on December 7, 2004. With the audition process done, the show would continue to have guest hosts - even inviting back the passed-over finalists Hughley, Black, and Fahey - to close the calendar year.

Craig Ferguson began his tenure on January 3, 2005. See the respective page for more on his era. Ferguson departed the show on December 19, 2014, having announced that he would be leaving on April 28 of that year, just weeks after Letterman announced his own retirement that would take place in 2015. Ferguson's nearly ten years at the helm was the longest run of any Late Late Show host. Ferguson wrote and sang his own theme song, rearranging it late into his tenure. In 2012, the show moved from Studio 58 to Studio 56, where CBS's failed first foray into late night talk shows - The Pat Sajak Show - was taped.

In September 2014, CBS announced that Tony Award-winning English actor and comedian James Corden would succeed Ferguson beginning in March of 2015. Unless one was a Doctor Who fan, or had seen Gavin & Stacey on BBC America, Corden was a relative unknown in the U.S., his selection perhaps drawing a bigger "Who?" than Ferguson's. Even Corden himself feared that he would only last six months on the job.

In between Ferguson's departure, and Corden's debut, guest hosts were brought in to helm the show from January to March 2015, although all of the shows were taped in January in order to tear down Ferguson's set and build Corden's. The February 20 show - hosted by Will Arnett - marked Peter Lassally's last as Late Late Show executive producer, and the end of Worldwide Pants' involvement with it, thanks to Letterman's retirement from The Late Show, which occurred on May 20, 2015. English TV producer Ben Winston's Fulwell 73 Productions would take over from Worldwide Pants as the show's main production company. The final pre-Corden episode aired on March 6, hosted by Drew Carey. Corden made two cameo appearances prior to his taking over: One on Ferguson's third-to-last show on December 17, 2014, and the January 23, 2015 episode guest hosted by Judd Apatow, where Corden acted as a job shadow, wanting to "learn from [Apatow's] mistakes."

Corden began hosting on March 23, 2015, also from Studio 56. His Late Late Show would be the only one with a house band, this one fronted by comedian and musician Reggie Watts. Corden relied heavily on bits that would go viral outside of the television broadcast. Notable recurring bits would be acting out select scenes from an actor's most famous films with said actor (he did this with Tom Hanks on the very first show), and "Crosswalk the Musical", where he and a theater company would act out scenes from famous musicals in a Los Angeles crosswalk while cars waited for a light change. He would also send his parents to various events - such as National Football League games played in London - to interview people for the show. Two segments got their own spinoffs: One of them was "Drop the Mic", where Corden would engage in a (scripted) rap battle with one of his guests, airing as a series on TNT, then moving to TBS, from 2017 to 2019. Corden served as an executive producer, appearing in just two episodes of the series.

But the most famous segment was "Carpool Karaoke", where Corden would drive around Los Angeles (and sometimes other cities) with famous singers, talking with them and singing their biggest hits with them as the songs played on the vehicle's sound system. Among the guests in the segment were Adele (whose first appearance in 2016 - taped in London - remains the most-watched video on the show's YouTube account), Justin Bieber, and Paul McCartney, with whom Corden did a primetime special taped in Liverpool in 2018. In 2016, Apple began airing a series based on the segment on its Apple Music service, moving to Apple TV+ in 2022. In the series, various celebrities are paired together driving around and singing along to famous pop songs. The segment sparked imitators, one of them being done by members of the US Olympic Swim Team as they trained in Atlanta prior to traveling to Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Summer Olympics. Carpool Karaoke: The Series has won five Emmy Awards.

Corden's Late Late Show tenure drew the highest ratings in series history, and won multiple Emmy Awards, the only LLS incarnation to win Emmys. On April 28, 2022, Corden announced that he would step down from the show in 2023, citing a desire to return to London with his wife and children. In February 2023, CBS announced that Corden would not be replaced, meaning that the show would end with his last episode. A Stephen Colbert-produced revival of the 2013-2017 Comedy Central panel game show @Midnight will replace it; the revival will be titled After Midnight, and be hosted by young comedian Taylor Tomlinson. It is scheduled to premiere in early 2024.

Corden's final episode - as well as the Late Late Show series finale - aired on April 27, 2023. The final guests were Corden's friend, Harry Styles, and Will Ferrell. A primetime special aired earlier in the evening looked back on moments in the show's history, as well as the last Carpool Karaoke segment, featuring Adele, and Corden and Tom Cruise joining a local production of The Lion King. Unlike the tenures of Snyder, Kilborn, and Ferguson, Corden's Late Late Show aired new episodes from Monday to Thursday, with Friday's airing being a rerun.

On the week of the final episode, the magazine Los Angeles published an article about the show's finances. Specifically, the fact that the network was losing $20 million a year on it (CBS was spending $60-65 million, but only making back $45 million), so, it's a good thing that Corden decided to leave when he did, or CBS may have eventually made the choice for him by axing the show altogether.

This is not to be confused with the long-running RTÉ show of the same name, which has been on the air since 1962, making it the second-longest running late-night talk show, behind The Tonight Show.

Specific series who have their respective pages:

Tropes associated with The Late Late Show include:

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    Tom Snyder's run 
  • Broadcast Live: In Eastern and Central time zones; also simulcast on CBS radio so listeners could call in.
  • Catchphrase: " fire up the colortinis and watch the pictures as they fly through the air." When the show was simulcast on CBS Radio, "colortinis" was replaced by "simultinis".
  • Guest Host: On occasions when Snyder was ill, Jon Stewart and Martin Mull filled in.
  • Instrumental Theme Tune: A saxophone piece by David Sanborn really captures the feel of a city at night.
  • Motor Mouth: Snyder had mellowed a bit from his Tomorrow days but still tended to be extremely chatty.
  • Rearrange the Song: While the basic tune remained the same, the show used three different versions of the theme tune in the first year:
    • When the show started, a slower saxophone piece was used.
    • By March 1995, this gave way to a faster tune that finally was replaced by the theme that was used for the rest of the run by December of that year.
  • Spiritual Successor: To Snyder's old Tomorrow Show on NBC, which was replaced by David Letterman's Late Night when a disastrous format change killed it.
  • Studio Audience: None, as that had been one of the changes NBC made to Tomorrow that led to its demise, so Snyder completely avoided it here. The guffaws you heard when Tom recounted his day (where the monologue would go in a more traditional show) were from the crew.
  • Unbuilt Trope: Snyder's freewheeling, casual style of interviewing and eclectic range of guests makes his various shows, including this one, feel like Podcast ancestors.
  • Variations on a Theme Song: The show used an even more upbeat version of the theme for at least the second anniversary week in 1997.

    Craig Kilborn's run 
  • Guest Host: After Kilborn left, several people rotated as guest hostsnote . The guests were whittled down to four finalists — D. L. Hughley, Damien Fahey, Michael Ian Black, and of course, Craig Ferguson — who hosted one week each.
  • Mythology Gag: Kilborn also had the segments "5 Questions" and "A Moment For Us", which he had originated on The Daily Show. He brought his "5 Questions" segment to his short-lived weeknight show, The Kilborn File.
  • Running Gag: Dick Vermeil's teary Super Bowl victory speech, the PG&E rapping grandmother.
  • Title Theme Tune: "The Late Late Show is starting. The Late Late Show is starting now...with Mr. Kilborn." Sung by Chris Isaak, no less.

    Craig Ferguson's run 

    James Corden's run 
  • Ambiguously Human: James Corden's travails trying to do "Celebrity Noses" involve him butting heads with a stressed digitized British voice that plays at helping him with technical difficulties where, somewhere down the line, he directly questioned if the other speaker was really human.
  • Awesome Mc Cool Name: James Corden allows for the idea that "Mike Esperanto", President Trump's miswritten name for his Secretary of Defense, is a cooler name than "Mike Esper".
  • "Basic Instinct" Legs-Crossing Parody: Michael Douglas reprised his role as Detective Nick Curran in a Basic Instinct spoof, with James himself replacing Sharon Stone. After repeated leg crossing moments, Douglas eventually has to throw up.
  • Battle Rapping: The "Drop The Mic" segment on James' run eventually got picked up by TBS for its own show, hosted by Method Man and Hailey Baldwin.
  • Bilingual Bonus: When Sebastian Stan made an appearance with his teenage celebrity crush Sharon Stone, he started flirting with her in his native Romanian. His pickup line of choice was "Ce faci?",which translates to "How you doing?" Smooth.
  • Camp Straight: James is a musical theater star who loves 1990's Boy Bands and gushes over the likes of Lady Gaga and Madonna. If he wasn't married to a woman with three kids, you'd be forgiven if you assumed he was as gay as the day is long.
  • Cold Open: Unusually for a late night talk show, James does his monologue before the title sequence.
  • Companion Show: James gently tweaked CBS for their decision to fill the summer gap in the 11:35 slot between David Letterman's retirement and Stephen Colbert's debut with reruns of various primetime dramas, by doing cold open sketches with a Talking Dead-style aftershow for The Mentalist, Talking Mentalist. It later got an aftershow of its own, Talking Talking Mentalist (in which they talk about the previous Talking Mentalist), and a successor in Talking Hawaii Five-0, complete with bonus Chris Hardwick.
  • Even the Guys Want Him:
  • Fetishes Are Weird: Discussed in one segment with Alison Brie. Corden brought up how Alison has a devoted fandom of people with foot fetishes, obviously with the intent to make a joke of it. Alison responded by actually defending these fans, calling foot fetishes "cool", and proudly showing her feet to Corden's audience. When Corden continued to say that he thinks foot fetish acts are gross, Alison responded with a rather blunt Armor-Piercing Question that Corden couldn't find an answer to.
    Alison: Yeah, but who's it hurting?
  • Guest Host: Corden's had several stars fill in for him on occasion, but all-time favorite guest Jeff Goldblum's go-round on December 12, 2019 deserves special mention with an elaborate opening musical number about being this trope, a monologue that included a Take That! at Carpool Karaoke (actually his second after that July's "Drop the Mic" rap battle with Corden) and an Enforced Plug for his Disney+ show The World According to Jeff Goldblum, and the "Animals Riding Animals" game being changed to "Animals Riding Jeff Goldblum". He and his jazz band The Mildred Snitzer Orchestra also served as the musical guests.
  • Hidden Depths:
    • Despite his major role in the musical Into the Woods, celebrities in the Carpool Karaoke are usually baffled when James busts out a hell of a tune.
    • James' dad is surprisingly good at playing the sax, as evidenced in his jam with Anderson.Paak.
  • Idiot Ball: invoked People who pick anything but "D: None of the above" in the studio audience game called "None of the Above."
    Audience member: I'm going to go with "B".
    James: I'm going to make sure you'd like to go with "B" even though the game is called "None of the Above."
    Audience member: Can I change my answer?
    James: Oh, no, noooo, you can stick with B if you want!

  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Eddie Redmayne's reaction when James shows a clip of him singing "Memory" from their high school years.
      Eddie: I knew coming onto this show was a bad idea!
    • Natalie Portman reacts similarly when her old environmental pop group, the Earth Patrol Kids, are shown.
  • Old Shame: James loves to invoke this by bringing up an embarrassing early project/experience of one of his guests and showing a clip or picture (much like Graham Norton, whose show's format is very similar to James'). The reaction of the guest usually elicits an Oh, Crap! moment.
  • Painful Rhyme: While performing a recap, at rhyming "Disney Plus" with "John Legend was named the sexi-est", Alicia Keys pauses and grins apologetically.
  • Please Subscribe to Our Channel: On the June 8, 2016 episode, Corden brings up that Wayne Brady had made a joke about a website called on the last episode, and learned it was network policy that CBS had to buy any fictitious domain name mentioned on his show so it doesn't get squatted by someone else. However, Corden agreed that this was an opportunity that they just had to seize, so they made it a real site where you could upload pictures of yourself and your mom to place in a picture of a stick figure massaging another. His discussion of it then turned into a ticket plug, suggesting that you should take your mom to a taping, and massage each other there. Then, it turned into a plug for his Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts, which turned into an Overly-Long Gag in which Corden listed off every single social networking service or app he is supposedly on.
  • Police Lineup: A skit had James playing a man in a lineup with three conspicuously good-looking, chiseled, muscular men, initially denying it, then liking the sound of being recognized as such and trying to match the victim's descriptions.
  • Rail Enthusiast: The whole joke in the Fifty Shades of Grey parody with Jamie Dornan is that James's deep secret is his enthusiasm for model trains rather than BDSM.
  • Retool: The format of Corden's version veers closer in style to British chat shows (such as The Graham Norton Show) than the typical U.S. standards, by having multiple guests come out and be interviewed together for the duration of the show, rather than having them come out one at a time and sometimes having the first guest leave. He also doesn't do his interviews from behind a desk either, preferring to pull up a chair to the left of the guests' couch instead.
  • Running Gag: Reggie Watts announces James as being from a different city at the start of each episode. In recent episodes, he has begun saying a city, but attaching it to a completely different location. For example, he introduced James as being from Milwaukee, Illinois. There is no town in Illinois called Milwaukee.
  • Serial Escalation: Sting and James performed a sketch where they played rival singing waiters engaged in a war of oneupsmanship with each coming back with a more ludicrous way of performing for the restaurant's patrons.
  • Side Effects Include...: Invoked by a recurring sketch, showing side effects of various activities.
  • Teasing the Substitute Teacher: Discussed in Guest Host Jeff Goldblum's monologue. He can't be fooled by anyone in the audience into just ordering pizza for everybody instead of following the show's "lesson plan".
  • Troubled Production: invoked
    • "I smell a good time, you smell a good time: it's time for Celebrity Noses!" It is ostensibly a game of some description, but something always goes wrong (such as Reggie having issues getting the theme music right, the intro graphic glitching, James losing the cards, Reggie insisting the segment be broadcast online via Periscope even though it's going to be on TV eventually, "human error" causing intros for other segments to come up instead, and then the backdrop spontaneously catching on fire), and then they run out of time and can't even play it. The lead-up to the series finale featured a "Behind the Noses" documentary to chronicle all the past attempts. Corden does try to get one final attempt in before the series finale, only to be informed that The Talk had stolen the segment and done it that morning (revealing that it involved the audience guessing celebrities based on their noses and clues with nose-related puns), and that Corden couldn't sue because they beat them to it (though both shows being owned and aired by CBS probably doesn't help matters much either).
    • Also, one of the writers will play a fictional expert in some field (from science to even gift-wrapping) with the name of a European soccer player (especially those who played in the English Premier League) to do a segment towards the end of the show. Unfortunately, Reggie and the band don't stop playing, causing there to be no time left for the segment. This usually results in the "expert" taking their anger out on James, to the point that they storm out of the studio, or James has to call for security.
    • A segment where James is to take questions about him or the show from the audience is always thrown off by someone asking something irrelevant. Once, it was nothing but questions about the parking situation at CBS Studio City.
  • While You Were in Diapers: One of Jeff Goldblum's responses to Corden's insults, several of which mock his age (he was 66 at the time), in their Drop the Mic rap battle is "When you were born, I was already 25/Which means I've been a sex symbol longer than you've been alive!"
  • Would Not Hurt A Child: A professional Manchester United player on a field against 100 kids when the host takes to the field: "I'm afraid to hurt the kids... but I'm not afraid to hurt James."