Join Greg and Diane every Monday as we debate what’s on our minds. This week: Is Canada ready for another late-night talk show?
The late-night world is changing south of the border. Jon Stewart exits The Daily Show in a few months, David Letterman stepped down from The Late Show after decades on the air and Craig Ferguson has exited his gig too. The result is a late-night landscape very different from just a few years ago.
Is this the time that a Canadian network gives a late-night talk show another shot? Through Strombo has headed up The Hour and Tonight for several years, we haven’t had a late-night show with a monologue and guest since Ed’s Night Party from 1995 to 2008. The Mike Bullard Show signed off in 2004 after one year on Global; Bullard preceded that gig with Open Mike with Mike Bullard on CTV from 1997 to 2003. From what I recall at the time, the biggest complaint about Bullard’s program was a failure to score enough big names to sit on the couch next to him. (Not everyone got his sense of humour either; his best-ever guest was Tom Green, who came out and tossed a dead raccoon on Bullard’s desk.)
But times have changed, and unless networks ban each other’s stars from appearing on a rival’s program, there’s enough talent—homegrown and international—to fill seats whether a late-night program is based out of Toronto or Vancouver and broadcast on The Comedy Network. (Can you imagine the A-listers they could book during TIFF!?) The challenge, of course, is finding the right person for the job and what style the show might take. Rather than modelling the show after a traditional U.S. program, why not take the blueprint of someone like Graham Norton and mix comedy bits and musical acts in with interviews with up to three or four guests?
As for who might host it, there’s no lack of Canadian talent to do that. Norm Sousa, Gavin Crawford, Seán Cullen, Jon Dore, Debra DiGiovanni, Elvira Kurt, Norm Macdonald, Candy Palmater or Claire Brosseau would all be great choices.
I think it could be done; what do you think?
My most vivid memory of a Canadian late-night talk show was Friday Night! with Ralph Benmergui. The exclamation mark was of course to indicate the great excitement we should feel about having a Canadian late-night talk show. Just maybe not that particular show, as the dismal ratings indicated.
I was a huge Letterman fan back in the day, and while a day job means I don’t watch a lot of late night television anymore, I like what Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert did in a different version of the genre. Stroumboulopoulos seemed to do something in between the two, minus the comedic host. But I’ve always been puzzled by the late-night format and how rigid it is even with all its variations. Monologue, fluffy guest interviews, comedic bits. Do we need this many of that kind of show? Do we need a Canadian version to compete with the plethora of US versions in the same timeslots? I’d rather see the limited Canadian TV budgets put into primetime.
I feel like the Rick Mercer Report could easily slide into that late night timeslot, except it would lose a considerable amount of its audience in the move. In primetime, celebrity interviews are covered with the likes of Entertainment Tonight Canada and eTalk, and political satire in their own unique ways by Mercer and 22 Minutes.
So what I’d love to see, more than a late night talk show, is a year-round primetime Rick Mercer Report, so his commentary isn’t limited to the 18 weeks a year or so that his show is in production. Given that the number of Mercer episodes has shrunk in recent years, that doesn’t seem likely without some budget miracles happening. But I’d rather that miracle than the miracle of a successful Canadian late-night talk show.