Does The Late Late Show cancellation signal the future of late-night TV?

Best variety talk series: "Late Late Show" with James Corden, CBSXxx James Corden080 Jpg A Ent Ca
Best variety talk series: "Late Late Show" with James Corden, CBSXxx James Corden080 Jpg A Ent Ca /

The Late Late Show on CBS has been canceled after three decades of being on air. The decision to cancel the show came after current host James Corden announced that he’d be stepping down later this year. It was a surprise to many that Corden stepped down as host and the end of The Late Late Show.

The Late Late Show is not the only late-night show change to happen lately. Other changes in late-night include Full Frontal with Samantha Bee being canceled and Trevor Noah leaving The Daily Show.

The former Comedy Central show @midnight will replace The Late Late Show. An interesting decision as @midnight has been off the air since 2017. But what does the end of The Late Late Show tell us about the future of late-night TV?

Late-night TV continues to change and evolve

Television has certainly changed over the years, especially in the past 10-15 years. Late-night talk shows used to be a hot, highly sought-after job; The Late Late Show was no exception. Comedian Norm MacDonald tried getting The Late Late Show hosting gig when it was announced that Craig Ferguson chose to step down. MacDonald even did a brief on-air audition while appearing on Conan. Even with the help of David Letterman, Norm was not the network’s choice to replace Ferguson as host.

Back in the ’90s comedians Dana Carvey and Gary Shandling were rumored to have been offered a late-night hosting role and they declined. Craig Ferguson happily stepped down as host of The Late Late Show in 2014. Why does it seem comedians or writers not actively trying to get this type of gig?

Right now, it seems there are a few likely reasons. Network constraints when it comes to content, the schedule and amount of work that goes into a talk show, and other options available for potential hosts could all be factors.

Podcasting has taken over the entertainment world, every comedian has one. Bill Maher now has a podcast. Conan O’Brien stepped down as host of his TBS talk show and started not one but multiple podcasts.

Declining viewership has also become an issue not only for late-night talk shows but for television as a whole. Major sporting events are still consistently the top-viewed programs on television. But everything else has dipped drastically.

Major outlets still write as if they’re shocked when a new show has low ratings, leading to the show ultimately being canceled. But this has been an ongoing occurrence for years. Fewer and fewer people watch television as it airs live.

Options for the public have expanded and live viewership is bound to decline overall. With streaming options climbing, cable, YouTube, Tik Tok, podcasts, and more streaming content, it shouldn’t be a shock that viewership for programs as they air live has consistently dropped.

Do late-night TV fans want a change?

One common complaint some have had regarding late-night talk shows is that there are too many and it’s become overcrowded. And with multiple talk shows in the same if not very similar format, they are bound to cover the same topics.

And in recent years, politics have dominated late-night talk shows. Back in the 2000s, we had The Daily Show with Jon Stewart which would cover politics daily. Then the other major talk shows would have some political jokes. Now hosts dedicate entire segments while some even have the majority of their show based on politics.

When Donald Trump ran for president, that seemed to be the shift. Seth Meyers has the segment “A Closer Look” which consistently runs 10-20 minutes long. Stephen Colbert grew in viewers due to his consistent Trump-related talk. John Oliver would have 20+ minute segments on political issues, and we still have The Daily Show among several political-related comedy shows. Jimmy Fallon even seemed forced to become more political in his Tonight Show.

Maybe the Trump era was good for late-night TV material for a while, but it seemed to be very played out. Relating to the major complaint of being overcrowded, when every show is discussing the same topic they all seem to blend together. As the Trump era continued, some late-night show’s quality dipped and the material certainly wasn’t sustainable.

With this political tone overbearing in some shows, another issue was in the format. Instead of a discussion about a topic, the late-night talk show format turned into more monologues. No discussion or debate, just one host’s viewpoint which is then perceived by the audience as the viewpoint to have.

With multiple talk shows having the same format, topics, and often the same recurring guests, the format of the late-night talk show seems to be past its golden age. Now with The Late Late Show being canceled, this may be a bad sign for what the future of late-night television may become.