April 29, 2014

THE SKED: The Craig Ferguson Shoe Drops


Craig Ferguson is maintaining that his decision to leave CBS and THE LATE LATE SHOW WITH CRAIG FERGUSON in December is absolutely, entirely, utterly, completely, totally unrelated to the network’s recent decision to hand David Letterman’s slot to Stephen Colbert when Letterman steps down next year.  No, truly, he never had any interest in Letterman’s job, wouldn’t have wanted it if they’d offered it, had already decided he was done with late-night talkshows.  To which, one takes the man at his word–but must note that it’s a bit inconsistent with the $5-10M penalty payment he reportedly received under his contract as compensation for not moving up to Letterman’s desk.

The announcement’s seemingly glancing relationship with the truth is a bit disappointing because one of the things that’s been most appealing about Ferguson as a late-night host has been his apparent straight-shooting.  Sure, he had the skeletal robot sidekick and the fake horse and the goofy face-off contests with his guests and all the rest, but there was something genuine about Ferguson and his apparently stream-of-consciousness monologues that set him apart from everyone else in the field.  Seeing him exit in a cloud of PR amiability is rather sad.

Ferguson, who’ll be hosting a syndicated game show in the fall, was probably never a serious candidate for the Letterman slot–too old in an increasingly young-skewing space, too loopy, not edgy enough, middling ratings at 12:35AM.  The next parlor game, of course, will be who replaces him (as well as who replaces Colbert at Comedy Central), and there will definitely be an eye to CBS giving the job to someone who isn’t a middle-aged white guy.  With Ferguson departing at the end of the year, there’s no necessity to rush the decision (it doesn’t need to be unveiled at the CBS upfronts next month, which presumably will feature the Colbert transition), but whoever it is will probably take over before Colbert ascends at a to-be-determined-by-Dave time in 2015, so that person will initially be the new face of CBS late-night, making it a move that can make an important statement.  No doubt every agent in town is pressing their beloved clients on the network already, so stay tuned.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."