Written By Aaron Sarnecky
The Late Late Show Premiere Summary:
In the latest iteration of the long-running talk show, British actor/comedian James Corden takes over host duties, with Reggie Watts assisting as house bandleader. After introducing himself, James is joined by Family Guy star Mila Kunis and “gift to humanity” Tom Hanks.
Hey, you’re still up, for some reason! Why not watch this? That’s pretty much what Corden says right off the bat in his series premiere….and already I like this guy. After all, how many people are really going to stay up until 1:35 to watch the entirety of a talk show? Many will actually fall asleep while watching, another admission by Corden.
Still, James Corden treats it all like a typical talk show gig. And why shouldn’t he? After he briefly introduces who he is (where he’s from, his family, etc.) and humbly admits that he’s just as surprised that he got the job, we’re treated to a lengthy sketch based on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, explaining how Corden became the new host.
In the sketch, CBS sends out thousands of candy bars, with a single one holding a golden ticket. A handful of stars search for the ticket, all to no avail. Some of the stars, like Eddie Redmayne, don’t really fit the bill, but I suppose the joke is that every celebrity is looking for the ticket. And I guess that’s fair enough; I did smile when I saw Simon Cowell open up a candy bar. Still, one of the funnier cameos is Katie Couric, who had a short-lived talk show that ended about a year ago.
Unfortunately for the rival stars, Corden manages to find the ticket. Afterwards, he travels to a secret training facility for talk show hosts. I won’t give away who’s in charge there. Let’s just say it’s not who you’d think. At the facility, Corden is taught the tricks of the trade. Some of these aren’t that funny, but a few do stand out. I appreciate that they suggested that a host laughs at the guest’s stories even when most of them aren’t actually funny. I laughed myself when they brought in the much-maligned Shia LaBeouf, who makes fun of himself.
The episode, however, devotes the bulk of its time to the guests, Mila Kunis and Tom Hanks. For some reason they came out together, opposed to separately, and it falters a little because of this. In the first half of the conversation, Corden focuses more on Kunis, leaving Hanks out of the fun, kind of.
I say ‘kind of’ because Hanks acts as a sort of cheerleader, making remarks about Corden’s questions and even asking Kunis a few questions himself. Luckily, because of this, Tom Hanks keeps the conversation afloat. Still, I can’t imagine this format working with other stars, most of who don’t have Hanks’ charisma. So hopefully this is a one-time thing.
Before the second half of his conversation with Kunis and Hanks, Corden does another sketch, this time reenacting parts of Tom Hank’s movies, with Hanks assisting. It’s a little disappointing that a lot of the gags for the big movies are the most obvious ones. They do poke fun at a few of his lesser-known movies too though. The audience’s cheers make up for that to some degree though, and I have seen the audience’s clear favorite, Toy Story. After that, there’s a little more of Corden with Kunis and Hanks, though it’s more lopsided this time around because Corden focuses on Hanks.
At the end of the show, Corden finishes with a short musical piece. He certainly can carry a tune. In fact, he’s a Tony Award winner (though that was for a non-musical). The song is not all that profound, but it’s short and sincere.
Based on the premiere. I doubt Corden is going to bring as many laughs as other talk show hosts do. But that’s alright, because there are still some to be had. He has a wit and humbleness to him that makes him very likeable. It’s more important just to keep your interest. And honestly, at the time of night it’s on, it’s likely one of the best things to watch.
Rating: 7.5 out of 10 (Good)
THE LATE LATE SHOW AIRS WEEKNIGHTS AT 12:35AM ON CBS