Late-night television is going through a moment.
For the first time in eight years, there’s a significant change behind the desks coming in 2023 as the industry wraps its head around the future of nightly, and weekly, talk shows.
In 2022, James Corden, as revealed by Deadline, announced he was leaving The Late Late Show, Trevor Noah stepped down from The Daily Show, Samantha Bee’s Full Frontal was canceled by David Zaslav’s cost-cutting Warner Bros. Discovery regime, Desus & Mero fell out and broke up, leaving their rising Showtime series.
The big three remained unchanged – Jimmy Kimmel signed a new contract to continue hosting ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live!, after deliberating about leaving the nightly slog, Jimmy Fallon is a year into a new deal hosting NBC’s The Tonight Show and Stephen Colbert continues comfortably at the top hosting CBS’ The Late Show with few expecting him to leave any time soon.
Despite Full Frontal’s cancellation, late-night is more diverse than it used to be with the likes of Amber Ruffin getting buzz for her Peacock show – and a co-sign from Colbert – and Ziwe, Charlamagne Tha God and Sam Jay all hosting weekly shows. The hope is that any contraction in late-night doesn’t affect this drive.
As CBS and Comedy Central prepare to fill their empty chairs, and the Emmys changed its rules meaning that John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight won’t win an eighth consecutive late-night Emmy (instead competing against Saturday Night Live in a revamped variety category), there will be plenty of changes coming over the next twelve months.
But is this just the tip of the iceberg? Late-night is a trickier business than it used to be, the economics are more challenging, particularly as fewer and fewer people are tuning in to these shows live and the media environment is creaking at the seams, and streaming still hasn’t cracked the nightly talker.
Below, we’re offering five more predictions, some based on reporting and some based on feelings, on what the late-night world will look like in 2023.
The Late Late Show: Smaller Budget, Different Show
James Corden is leaving the CBS show after eight and a half years, news broken by Deadline in April. His departure has opened the door for the network to shake up the way that it operates its 12:30am show. The economics of late-night television have fundamentally shifted since Brit took over in 2015 and Deadline understands that the network is looking to greatly reduce the budget of the show. The show currently costs just north of $60M a year to produce and we hear that CBS is looking to bring this down to the $35M a year range.
This will fundamentally affect how it approaches what the new show will look like and who will take over. CBS CEO and President George Cheeks told Deadline in May that it would experiment with the right “replacement format”. NBC’s own experiment with YouTube star Lilly Singh in its 1:30am slot didn’t quite work so it’s unlikely that the network will just throw a TikTok star you’ve never heard of behind the desk, but don’t be surprised if the next iteration of The Late Late Show looks very different to Corden’s run. You’d also be wise to bet that the new gig doesn’t go to another straight white male.
Seth Meyers To Be Crowned New SNL Boss, NBC Closes 12:30am Slot
Seth Meyers, who was at Saturday Night Live between 2001 and 2014, has spent the last few months mocking the rumors that he will take over the venerable NBC show when (if?) Lorne Michaels ever steps down.
Earlier this month, he orchestrated a funny Zoom video with his SNL friends Amy Poehler and Maya Rudolph about who they thought should take over. In March, he said that he feels “too old” to return to SNL and in October, he told another former SNL-er, Leslie Jones, he said that “nobody can take over for Lorne. If you don’t think with the money Lorne Michaels has made, he’s not getting some special blood transfusion done one day”.
Despite all of this, it just feels like Meyers is the perfect candidate to take over from Michaels, who has hinted that a “really good time to leave” would be around its 50th anniversary in 2024.
If Meyers does become the new Lorne Michaels, you can imagine that NBC might scale back or even close the 12:35am slot, which is also currently exec produced by Michaels. It closed the 1:30am slot previously held by Lilly Singh and while it extended Meyers deal to host the show through 2025 last year, it has also been exploring the idea of getting rid of 10pm dramas so taking a closer look at late-night is likely also on the cards.
The Daily Show: Roy Wood Jr. & Desi Lydic To Take Over
Comedy Central is looking for a new host or hosts for The Daily Show. The network, and its parent company Paramount Global, have a bit of time to make a decision, after they unveiled a list of guest hosts, including Chelsea Handler and Kal Penn, taking over for the first part of the year. Deadline understands that one of the options on the table is going for more of a Weekend Update-style approach and bringing in more than one host. Two of the show’s correspondents Roy Wood Jr. and Desi Lydic are thought to be one of the suggestions.
Such a move could work for a number of reasons; the pair evidently know the show well and have grown their profiles in recent years, there’s obviously a connection between them (see recent Georgia Ninja Voter skit above), the optics of having both a Black man and a woman would be good for diversity and, arguably most importantly, refreshing a concept that’s been on air for over 25 years could be a creative boon. There’s always a chance one of the guest hosts will put in such a stellar performance (see John Oliver hosting The Daily Show in 2013) that they become undeniable or that someone like Ruffin can be tempted out of a rival, but if I was a betting man, and I am, I’d put my money on Wood and Lydic.
CNN To Launch Its Own Late-Night Show
Chris Licht has had a tough ten months since taking over news network CNN. There’s been rounds of layoffs, revenue falls, the closure of the fledgling CNN+, being called a “fascist” by former colleague Keith Olbermann, and no longer being considered a friend by his now boss David Zaslav.
However, Licht has turned things around in the past with MSNBC’s Morning Joe and CBS’ This Morning and he’s widely considered the reason that The Late Show with Stephen Colbert became a success, reversing a ratings dwindle and comfortably beating The Tonight Show.
Could a late-night show for his new home help him do the same thing at CNN? There’s talk that Licht is looking at the space to revitalize the network and he recently told the New York Times that prime time is an “open canvas” and that he and his team are “throwing things against the wall, looking at off-the-beaten path opportunities.”
Look at what Gutfeld! has done for Fox News. The late-night show, hosted by Greg Gutfeld, who also regularly appears on The Five, has been a ratings success for the Murdoch-owned network. There’s an argument that Fox News viewers will watch whatever is on the channel, but it’s also evidently performing well above what came before with a looser talk format.
Chelsea Handler To Return To Late-Night With Weekly Show
Chelsea Handler has not been shy about her desire to return to late-night. The comedian hosted Chelsea Lately on E! between 2007 and 2014, as well as Chelsea on Netflix between 2016 and 2017.
This year, she guest hosted Jimmy Kimmel Live!, just after the reversal of Roe v Wade, and in the new year will get a week behind The Daily Show desk to flex her muscles.
It’s unlikely that she’ll be in line (or would want) The Late Late Show job (see above) and there’s plenty of competition for The Daily Show’s permanent job, but you could definitely see Handler return elsewhere.
She would be welcomed, particularly given that after Samantha Bee’s exit, Amber Ruffin is the only woman hosting a regular weekly show (Ziwe and Sam Jay’s shows have very short runs).
Handler recently told Seth Meyers on Late Night that she would call her new show Chelsea Later. “I didn’t miss doing that until I did it again, and I remembered. I was like ‘Oh, this is exactly what I’m built for’… being able to comment on things in real-time on a platform. There’s a dearth of women doing this and it’s not cool anymore so I’m definitely going to get back in the mix and do it again,” she said.
And Finally… John Oliver To Step Down
John Oliver is signed up to host HBO’s Last Week Tonight through 2023. The former Daily Show correspondent has had an incredibly successful run since taking over in 2014, winning the late-night Emmy seven years in a row. Will he continue on past this year or will he go out on top?
The Emmys have already made it harder for him to continue his winning streak, moving his show from talk into a new category, Scripted Variety Series, where he will compete against perennial winner SNL.
The anarchic comedian also likes to throw stones in his own house. He regularly snarked about “business daddy” owners AT&T and this hasn’t stopped since the Discovery folk took over Warner Bros., causing him to call the company out for ““burning down my network for insurance money”. “People don’t generally openly sh** on their employers unless, of course, that employer is Warner Bros. Discovery,” he said last month. “In which case, you can happily sh** away because apparently, they’re too busy canceling shows to notice.”
He encouraged the new owners to follow AT&T’s “Victorian marriage” model and “leave us the f*ck alone”, but whether Zaz and his team have the stomach for that is another question.