The Late Late Show With James Corden Premiere: Glad You Stayed Awake?

“I know what you’re thinking: Oh look, Andy Richter’s got his own show!” giggled James Corden, kicking off his stint as host of The Late Late Show in utterly self-deprecating fashion.

And throughout his mild-mannered opening monologue, the British comic repeatedly referenced his surprise at being chosen to succeed Craig Ferguson in CBS’ 12:37/11:37c weeknight slot and his belief that most Americans have no idea who he is.

If I’m being honest, though, I wish Corden — who’ll always be Gavin & Stacey‘s “Smiffy” to me — had made his intro more about his undeniable comedic chops and less about his gratitude (since only one of ’em is gonna result in repeat viewership).

Thankfully, he quickly transitioned to a star-studded pre-taped bit — which painted CBS’ search for a host as a Willy Wonka-esque contest to find a Golden Ticket — that earned more laughs than any other portion of the one-hour telecast. There was Joel McHale, weeping in disappointment at losing the gig. There was Girls‘ Lena Dunham, grumbling “this is misogyny” after coming up empty-handed. There was Katie Couric, hurling her chocolate bar across the room and shattering glass in the process. We also saw Chris Rock, Billy Crystal, George Lopez and more A-listers in the hunt. Finally (in a winking meta moment), erstwhile rumored front-runner for the CBS gig Chelsea Handler was shown buying a candy bar at a newsstand, then distractedly dropping it — with Corden as the lucky beneficiary.

And who should be the Wonka entrusted with Corden’s training? None other than brutal, Whiplash-inspired taskmaster Jay Leno, who brought along Allison Janney, Shia LeBeouf (scoring the biggest laugh while poking fun at his own pretensions), Arnold Schwarzenegger and even Meryl Streep to get Corden ready for his debut.

Lucky for Corden, the Wonka success aired well before his other high-concept bit — in which he and Tom Hanks burned through a rapid-fire, green-screen-enhanced reenactment of more than two dozen of the Oscar-winning actor’s movies. It was hard not to admire the ambition of such an undertaking, but aside from Corden’s disembodied head bobbing through a Cast Away interlude, the end product was too rushed and too lacking in clever twists to induce more than mild amusement.

Corden’s initial interview — a joint sit-down with Hanks and Mila Kunis — wasn’t without its awkward moments, either, especially when Corden began commiserating with Kunis about them both being parents of five-month-olds. As Kunis explained how she and beau (or possibly husband?) Ashton Kutcher have a weekly date night where they try not to talk about their baby, Corden blurted, “It’s almost impossible once you have a child, to the point where you might even be talking about it during sex. ‘You know she almost rolled over today.’ ‘Really?'” As Corden lightly mimed intercourse and Hanks looked on in comic horror, Kunis gamely tried to help the host out of his awkward spot — admitting that perhaps she’s had sexy moments where she’s been distracted wondering if her infant is making noises in the other room. “It’s [Ashton] and he’s just crying during sex — that’s what he does!” Corden lobbed back, hitting the dead horse with shock paddles. (Pro tip for Night 2: If you’re laughing harder than your audience, move on to the next subject, buddy.)

Overall, though, Corden came off as charming and unexpectedly earnest for a late-night host — tearing up when thanking his parents in the audience, and again looking a tad misty-eyed during a silly little “thank you” ballad with which he closed the show. Whether Corden ultimately excels at celebrity Q&As and current-events punch lines — or if Leno’s zinger, “in three months, this show will be mine” proves prescient — only time will tell.

Until then, it’s your turn. What did you think of Corden’s maiden Late Late voyage? Will you be back for a second helping later in the week? Grade his premiere in our poll below, then expand on your thoughts in the comments!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  2. Jared Munson says:

    It’s very British like the Graham Norton show. Doing the behind the set look at the guests and having the interview with both of them.

    • David4 says:

      Several of the fill ins hosts did all the guests at once too. I think the reason Craig didn’t was because he would fill him shows weeks or even months in advance and each segment was filmed at completely different times.

  3. Gillian says:

    I enjoyed it – Also I know where High Wycombe is!! ( I also happen to be British)

  4. WonderWaage says:

    I agree with almost nothing you said. I found the show to be awesome, except for the sex when parents bit.

  5. c-mo says:

    I tended to agree with you, part of the way through the monologue, I started to feel bad for him because he seemed so uncomfortable saying anything other than he was shocked and grateful. I did think his tribute to his parents was sweet and if the t-shirt that his dad wore does exist, I need one (or several) I know some guys that could pull it off! I will give it at least a week and maybe more to see if he settles in and becomes more comfortable. Also I think he needs to ditch the desk all together and get a different chair for himself if he’s going to have all of his guests come out at the same time, the feel should be more “living room” than “shrink’s office”.

  6. Mr. Smith says:

    Found him refreshing and better than the rest of the late night hosts. Hope Colbert will be as different as Corden is when he debuts later in the year.

  7. Mr. Tran K says:

    I give it an A. I really enjoy the new Late Late Show set which is even better than Craig Ferguson’s and they also have a bar. I like Reggie Watts the bandleader and he and James are going to be a great dynamic duo much like Dave and Paul (The Late Show), Jay and Kevin (The Tonight Show). I think James Corden would do a great job in the years to come and destined to be Late Night TV’s rising star but as former host Craig Ferguson would say: it’s a great day for America.

    • Mr. Tran K says:

      BTW, he’s also a great singer which I didn’t know about that until now.

    • Timmah says:

      I think it’s kind of a waste of Reggie’s talents to have him be the band leader of a talk show. Actually the show kind of bored me so I fast forwarded through most of it, seems like your standard late night talk show other than that there’s no desk.

  8. WhatGives says:

    I absolutely love the set for this show! Has there ever been a bandleader for a show after Letterman? I’m thinking not, so this is a pleasant change as well. I also love it when the guests are interviewed together. I think it’s one of the reasons I love The Graham Norton Show so much. The Golden Ticket segment was hysterical, especially when Eddie Redmayne showed up. I almost peed my pants when Shia just appeared out of nowhere.
    Also James’s dad is so cute, I hope his parents get to visit more often so I can see him again.

  9. NJMark says:

    I made the “Andy Richter” joke the day he was announced as the new host. (Probably everybody made that joke as well.)

  10. bill says:

    The guests looked uncomfortable being so close to Corden during the interview segment.

  11. Mary says:

    His character on Gavin & Stacey was named Smithy not Smiffy.

  12. Ellen says:

    I enjoyed the format. I like that all the guests are on together…. leaves the possibility for more crazy off-the-cuff things to happen during a show and it’s fun to watch how the stars interact. He’s a pleasant guy to watch, too. The Tom Hanks Skit was a little manic but it had some funny moments. Love that Golden Ticket skit. I’ll tape this for sure.

  13. Josh Emerson says:

    I thought it was a great debut episode. But I might be biased. Gavin and Stacey is one of my favorite shows!

  14. Brenda says:

    I miss Watching Craig so much, he was so funny but don’t miss the horse etc. Craig should have been the one to replace Letterman too, I bet that’s why he quit. This new guy just isn’t funny to me & isn’t good looking. Sorry but it’s true:-/

  15. Brenda says:

    I miss Craig & he should have been the one to replace Letterman. This new guy just isn’t funny to me:-/

  16. Ross says:

    Revised opinion. I love the show except for one thing. Perhaps I’m the only one (and if that’s the case, it’s totally fair) but I find Reggie Watts unbelievably annoying. It’s a shame because I feel like he’s pulling the show down for me.

  17. Brenda says:

    I miss Craig. This guy isn’t that funny to me.

  18. Brenda says:

    I miss Craig. This guy isn’t that good or funny to me.