James Corden Says His Late-Night Show Was ‘Safe’ By Design
Corden is back in his native England after ending his American late-night tenure back in April. As the final and most divisive host in The Late Late Show history, Corden was responsible for fundamentally changing the way late-night shows engage audiences, eschewing the traditional talk-show format that relied on the wit of the writing staff and the host’s voice to create a personal performance in favor of a glitzy, buzzy, garish production that celebrated everything popular while aggressively peddling click-worthy content for the internet age.
Speaking at the RTS Cambridge Convention, Corden reflected on his new-age approach to the late-night medium, explaining how he wanted to “make a show that would embrace the internet” and form a “safe environment that was celebratory.” Too bad he could never create that “safe environment” at dinner.
“Yes it’s on at 12:30 at night, but I knew there was an audience who were watching content not just in the linear broadcast fashion,” Corden said of his former show. “So maybe we could make a show that launches at 12:30 but is available to watch all day, all night, wherever you are, and maybe if we do that we will get there.” Corden’s segments reflected that internet-conscious approach with “Carpool Karaoke” and “Crosswalk: The Musical” all masterfully finding intersections of clickability in a mixture of celebrity and spectacle that one would get from a less ostentatious host like Craig Ferguson.
Somewhat contradictorily, Corden then urged the movers and shakers of British television to “be more open to failure,” explaining, “You learn almost nothing in success and everything in failure. … Surfing a line of success feels like playing Jenga with your career and being so scared of it falling, and then you realize when it falls that it is the best part of the game.”
While Corden’s twist on the time slot was certainly fresh for 2015, calling the creative decisions he made “risky” feels disingenuous — Corden brought late-night into the internet age, but that ushered in an era of cloying spectacle that felt like it relied more on focus groups and marketing departments to grab a contemporary audience’s attention than wit and creativity. If anything, The Late Late Show with James Corden was the embodiment of modern late-night’s paralyzing fear of failure, which, in this case, would mean irrelevance.
As cord-cutters continue to rise and time-sensitive programming falls behind, turning to YouTube-style content was about as safe a move as CBS could have made.