On Monday, Cosmopolitan magazine leaked the cover of its 50th anniversary issue. It will feature the Kardashian/Jenner women. The headline brands them America’s First Family.”
Upon seeing that, I felt like Rhett Butler at the end of “Gone with the Wind,” when he told Scarlett,
“I want to see if somewhere there isn't something left in life of charm and grace.” And I found it on “The Late Show with Steven Colbert.” That night, Misty Copeland, the principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre (the first African-American to be so honored in the troupe’s 75-year history), to the accompaniment of cellist Yo-Yo Ma, no less, performed to Bach’s “The Couante”
Ballet is just one of several cultural Achilles heels, but it was a stunning performance, and clearly a special, perhaps game-changing moment in late night, which has not in recent years been a stage for representatives of the finer arts.
Meanwhile on "The Tonight Show," host Jimmy Fallon was fronting a game show sketch in which celebrities were stuffed into phone booths.
That’s not meant as an elitist knock. It’s just an indication of how, just 20 shows in, Colbert is staking out his own territory in late night. His guest lists have been more diverse than his talk show counterparts and his conversations more substantive and seemingly spontaneous. His emotional interview with Vice President Joe Biden was an early benchmark for the show.
Yes, the bulk of his guests have something to promote (even Copeland; who is the subject of an upcoming documentary), but beyond the usual actors, musician, the occasional comedian, and politicians eager to get with the zeitgeist, Colbert has welcomed to his couch a stellar array of authors (Stephen King), economists (Ben Bernanke) and CEOs (Elon Musk) and entrepreneurs (Brian Chesky). He even welcomed a Supreme Court Justice (Stephen Bryer; with a book coming out).
The Misty Copeland booking is a hopeful sign that Colbert and company will continue to add even more variety to late night; someone from New York’s Metropolitan Opera, for instance, or the cast of a Broadway play. Not for nothing is the show presented in the Ed Sullivan Theatre, where one of television’s greatest and longest-running variety shows was filmed.
What is apparent thus far is that far from the scorched-earth ruins of the late night wars that claimed Leno, Letterman and Conan O’Brien, Stephen and the two Jimmys seem to be—the routine skirmishes for guests aside-- above it all and genuinely fond of each other. And each brings something distinct to the party; Kimmel the prankster, the top-rated Fallon the funster and Colbert; the silly sophisticate.
Who’s your favorite late night host of late? Leave a comment below.