Colbert’s Exit Creates a Problem for Comedy Central

Apr 10, 2014  •  Post A Comment

Thursday's announcement that Stephen Colbert will succeed David Letterman as host of CBS's "Late Show" leaves Colbert's current home, Comedy Central, with a gap in its marquee late-night lineup, the Los Angeles Times reports.

"For nearly a decade, 'The Colbert Report' has been a trusty follow-up to 'The Daily Show with Jon Stewart' and the pair delivered a formidable one-two punch that became one of the main sources of turmoil for rivals in the late-night TV race," the story reports. "The Comedy Central duo — Stewart as the quick-witted liberal and Colbert with his faux persona as a conservative gasbag — seemed so locked in that there was no room for John Oliver, a correspondent who emerged as host material himself when he filled in for Stewart on 'The Daily Show' last summer."

Oliver took off last year for HBO, where his new show, "Last Week Tonight With John Oliver," is set to bow April 27.

"Comedy Central was mum on a Colbert replacement, saying only that it wished Colbert the very best," the Times reports.

The plan is for Colbert to remain in place at Comedy Central until around the end of the year, regardless of when Letterman steps down, according to media reports.

The Hollywood Reporter's Live Feed notes that Colbert will bring his writing staff along with him when he makes the jump to CBS. "Sources tell THR that the network is looking at all options for the 11:30 p.m. half-hour after 'The Daily Show,'" the report adds. "And a talk show is not a sure thing. The time slot has been home to a talk format since Colbert first spun off from 'The Daily Show' in 2005. Since 2013, the network has further expanded the talk format past 12:00 a.m. with the Chris Hardwick-hosted '@midnight.'"

THR notes that Oliver would have been the obvious choice had either Stewart or Colbert stepped aside earlier. "But with him now out of the picture, there is no obvious replacement," the piece reports. "One option is Hardwick, who has had success with '@Midnight.' A confident Comedy Central handed out a 40-week renewal for the series in November after a brief sampling."

The L.A. Times report adds: "It was unclear Thursday morning just how long the Colbert-to-CBS move has been in the works. CBS played its cards close to the vest, in large part because of CBS Chief Executive Leslie Moonves' respect for Letterman. Moonves and others at CBS, including CBS Entertainment Chairman Nina Tassler, also were slightly horrified by the messy late-night transitions at NBC and didn't want a repeat of that."

But the selection of Colbert wasn't a complete surprise. "There was at least one strong clue that Colbert had been in the wings to replace Letterman for some time," the Times notes. "In the summer of 2012, both Colbert and Stewart renewed their contracts with Comedy Central. While Stewart's deal was extended for three years, until September 2015,  Colbert got a shorter extension, to the end of this year, just in time to move over to CBS and 'The Late Show.'"

chris-hardwick.jpgChris Hardwick

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