Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Open Letter to Craig Ferguson

Dear Mr. Ferguson:

I'm just now settling into your landmark episode with Stephen Fry. The one with no audience, and no other guests. I've listened to your monologue and I want to comment a bit.

I remember in the glory days of talk shows, the excitement of watching The Mike Douglas Show, with his round panel of guests. Or how my parents used to make Johnny Carson their Must See TV. And Tom Snyder, whom you mentioned, always seemed to be very interesting, with interesting guests.

Somehow the art of the talk show, the late night variety anyway, has devolved into some kind of bizarre game show schtick. Funny bits that used to be on the "variety" shows seem to dominate. The "talking" is mostly pre-rehearsed and for someone selling something. It's a bit too formulaic and predictable.

For the record, I hated Craig Kilbourn, and his sophomoric take on the talk show. I never ever watched his show.

But I started watching yours almost immediately. I was, and have continued to be, enchanted by the cheeky monkeys and the puppets and the brazen honesty that you bring to this late-night landscape. I was well into the pace of watching you with pleasure every night when that upstart Fallon came on the scene. And, I have to admit, I was swayed at first into watching him. He seemed to be very astute with the Mac and iPhone and the tech-savvy crowd, of which I am a part.

Then, he branched off into comedy set pieces and too many lame audience games and REALLY bad musical guests, so I've fallen off watching him. Never really liked Leno much. It feels like his time is past (a long time ago), and after the shabby way that NBC treated Conan (another flavor that I only perused occasionally), I can't watch Leno ever again.

But, to me, it always seems like you're struggling. The struggle seems to be what you know in your heart to be a good show, versus what the standard format of a late night show is, or what CBS censors tell you, or whatever. The times when you've hit the show out of the park is when you follow your heart and do what you want to do with it.

I, for one, am glad that you got away from the lame comedy skits and "remotes" from somewhere they are not. The new reality (at least the one I know on the Web) is about honesty and authenticity, and that seems like somewhere you could really excel.

What you have over Fallon, well aside from your dashing good looks and big one, is the art of the urbane and literate. I was (and continue to be) thrilled when you put in the surrealist Dali as a regular bit. It was such a wonderful innovative bit of television, and one area that no one else really covers.

The best interviews you do are with guests who interest you. But with all the hoo-ha that is also going on, you have time to ask about three questions before you have to get to the next guest or next musical act or next signoff. I personally would much rather you have a guest for an entire show, and do whatever you want with them.

Mind you, not every guest is as interesting as Stephen Fry. But there have been many, many times in the past where I've really wished you could talk to someone longer.

Even the people who do have "talking" shows: Larry King, or Joy Behar (as you mentioned), or Charlie Rose, still seem like they are constrained to a format, all official and strained. You and your guests have always felt like you are sitting in your living room, chatting. That's awesome.

In fact, in my dream world of the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, I would LOVE to have no warm-up comedian, no audience even. Just you and the guest. You, released from that crazy constraint of suit and tie, dressed in shirt and jeans, or whatever you're comfortable in, kicking back in a big leather armchair.

Maybe you could have one day a week with the boring guests and the musical acts and the audience.

But what a treasure a regular show with no audience, no schtick, no nothing but talking would be.

Most of all though, I am a loyal audience member of yours. I know others who feel the same way. I think everyone would say: Follow your dreams for your own show. Do it before you get bored. Break new ground. Let Tom Snyder live again. Or, even better, let YOU live with your passion.

Be honest and real and unscripted. (Don't even waste the damn cards.) People know the difference between pre-arranged schtick and actual talking.

It is a new world. Late night television needs to keep up. NBC is a mess. Letterman is happy with his format. Be happy with yours, and it will make us happy. Even if that means changing it completely.

Whatever that means to you, we'll keep up and we'll enjoy it. (Love the Spanish word of the day, btw.) Engage our minds with literacy. Delve into scientists and inventors and whoever it is that makes you interested, not just the latest actor or actress to plug their movies. More authors! Whoever. Whatever nobodies you want to interview. Be honest, be real, we'll follow. Trust your instincts. Trust your audience. We are there for you.

Oh, and I am glad that you finally got on Twitter. Love ya!


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