Kilby Goes Down: Late Late Show Host Quits

Salt Lake City Weekly | August 19, 2004
Kilby Goes Down

Craig Kilborn quits CBS’ Late Late Show; a nation (sort-of) mourns.


What kind of preening, smug, insincere, womanizing playboy entertainer walks away from the cake $2 million-a-year job that enables his preening, smug, insincere womanizing playboy lifestyle?

Relax, fans—we’re not talking about The Only TV Columnist That Matters™ here; contract negotiations are going just fine, thank you. The office hot tub and personal DJ booth are only minor sticking points, so enough about me …

Two weeks ago, Craig Kilborn (aka Craiggers, Kilby), the host of The Late Late Show With Craig Kilborn (CBS, weeknights, 11:35 p.m.) walked out on his negotiations and declared he was quitting the late-night TV chat-show gig to concentrate more on producing his own TV projects and getting more movie work—and after his Oscar-worthy turn in Old School, who can blame him? CBS was reportedly “stunned,” but only after being reminded that Kilborn was “that jackass who comes on after Letterman? Really? Wow, it could take weeks to replace him.”

Which is apparently CBS’ plan: By mid-September, a new Late Late Show host will be behind the desk before Craiggers has even been dropped from the guest list at B-level West Hollywood nightclubs. Replacement names from the rumor mill include Amy Sedaris (Strangers With Candy; sister of author David; longtime pal of David Letterman’s Worldwide Pants, which produces and controls the post-Late Show slot) and even Conan O’Brien (whose current contract with NBC expires in 2005). Ryan Seacrest? Oh, sweet Jesus, no.

When CBS called me for suggestions (as they frequently do—that Caitlin-Rick-Amber-Thomas quadrangle on The Bold & the Beautiful? All mine), the only names I could bring myself to toss out were, Snoop Dogg (because he’s Snoop) and Sarah Silverman (because she’s Sarah, mrrrow). Why? Even though he’s proven himself to be extremely replaceable—Comedy Central’s Daily Show and ESPN’s SportsCenter obviously survived his departures—I really don’t want Kilby to go.

Five years ago, when Craigby took over The Late Late Show from a spiraling-into-insanity Tom Snyder (what the hell is a “colortini,” and how does one “fire” one up?), I was watching—partly out of professional duty, party because I tend to be up late late, mostly because I’m a sucker for anything new. Then, the show looked and felt like the budget never cracked the four-digit mark; except for a better haircut for the host, absolutely nothing’s changed in the five years I’ve been sort-of watching him sort-of host the show.

No house band, Kilbers voices his own introduction, that damnable “Play That Funky Music” riff kicks in, he walks out onto a set seemingly pieced together from factory-outlet remnants. Once in place, he rambles through a half-assed monologue of gags, looking as uncomfortable doing stand-up as late-night “rival” Jimmy Kimmel looks, well, breathing. Up to this point every night, Late Late shows as much promise as McEnroe, the hands-down worst talk show in the history of electronically transmitted information (Magic Johnson, all is forgiven; Seacrest, not so fast).

But then, Late Late gets good—never great, because that would require Craigborn to at least phone it in, as opposed to his usual incomplete text-messaging from a dark corner in a cocktail lounge with one hand preoccupied with a Cosmopolitan and/or a leggy blond.

First, the sultry, trip-hoppy “Mr. Kilborn” play-it-to-the-desk tune (by Chris Isaak, who would also make a good replacement host—note to self: call CBS back) is the coolest talk-show theme ever. Second, his news-headline/sarcastic-punch-line delivery is impeccable, usually on par with his Daily Show replacement Jon Stewart. Third, his couldn’t-care-less-dude interaction with celebrity male guests (probably because he truly couldn’t care less) is a refreshing change from de rigueur gabfest fawning; when it’s a female celeb, you’re front-row at a free masters course in Power Flirting (use it for good, not evil). Fourth, Late Late almost invariably falls apart in that latter-hour stretch between the final couch guest and the musical guest, as if to say, “Look, it’s past midnight—you don’t care, we don’t care, f--k it. Here’s Franz Ferdinand.” Now that’s honest television.

Yeah, I’m really going to miss Kilggers. And Yambo? Oh, here come the (insincere) tears …

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