On 23 March this year, The Late Late Show saw a host handover from one Brit to another, from Glaswegian Craig Ferguson to London-bred James Corden, in what seemed like CBS simply employing someone new who simply fits the same demographic of their current host. However, that assumption could not be further from the truth. Corden is offering something far different from what Ferguson offered The Late Late Show for nearly a decade.
The idea that Corden is bringing something new to The Late Late Show may seem silly considering the show has already had a non-American host for years. But to equate Ferguson and Corden as equal outsiders is misleading. Ferguson, much like other expat television hosts on American late night programs such as John Oliver, has practically no level of fame outside of the United States. Despite being a British national, he made his mark in American broadcasting, becoming a naturalised citizen nearly a decade ago. He hosted The Late Late Show from 2005 until the end of 2014, this being the pinnacle of his career and with very little happening outside of this nine-year stint in American late night television. The Late Late Show made Ferguson remarkable; he was not a remarkable addition at the start.
James Corden is coming into his host-ship, too, as an unknown to his American audience, but he is by no means an unknown in general. Having starred in BBC dramas and incredibly popular comedies like Gavin & Stacey, Corden already had a name for himself in the UK and could have continued to have a fruitful career without crossing the pond. Corden is already remarkable and already has an entertainment background that is hugely well known. So why on earth would someone with such massive success in one country leave that national industry entirely, and jump ship to host a late night program, live, five days a week?
Already, Corden has proved exactly why he made this bold, albeit random move; he has hit the ground running. With huge stars like Tom Hanks, Mila Kunis and Mariah Carey for his first few shows, he has already managed to get the A-list lineup that pulls in viewers and has capitalised on these high profile guests by creating gripping content that is already all over social media and news sources, throwing high praise at this unknown.
Corden’s success is a win for pretty much everyone involved. It is a win for CBS, who, with Craig Ferguson, were not soaring but just coasting with a lacklustre host who had been around for too long, but who now with Corden are getting a needed breath of fresh air. It’s a win for Corden himself who took a massive risk in switching from a demographic where he had great success and moving to such uncharted waters for a popular British star. But the biggest win of all is for the American public and for American late night television on the whole for getting someone new who could actually change the game from the usual slew of hosts who essentially do the same show as one another, but just with slight twists. Corden brings a different point of view that not even Ferguson had because he was groomed for American TV. He brings a Graham Norton edge to a list of American comedians doing the same thing hour after hour and he provides a different style of hosting that exists in British late night, but not in America.
Corden is the transnational star that American late night television needs. Ferguson, although British in nationality, was an American star, groomed by an American audience for an American audience. Corden was primed for a British audience and is taking a leap of faith, testing out his entertainment prowess on a not only incredibly different, but also incredibly massive audience. After only a few episodes, it is already working to his benefit. When surrounded by American comedians of the same sort of style, from Jimmy Kimmel to Jimmy Fallon to Conan O’Brien, CBS needed to make a bold statement with its replacement of Ferguson. On the face of it Corden looks like an unexciting decision, just replacing one Brit with another, but he is already proving this to be untrue, making himself into a transnational known.