It started with a national anthem sung in duets. Mr. Colbert, the future of American late-night television, rich tenor cutting across time and space, in harmony with a chorus of everyday Americans. This was the kick off of The Late Night Show with Stephen Colbert, perhaps the most hyped premiere since Johnny Carson took over from Jack Paar back in ‘62.
So... how was it? For all his talk of revolutionizing the format, Colbert presented a pretty straight-ahead hour. The first night of a talk show is a little like the first day of school: There's a lot of “getting to know you” formalities. Would there be a monologue? (Yes.) Would there be a desk? (Yes.) And a couch (yes) and a band? (Yes. And a very very good one.) George Clooney trotted out his charm and Jeb Bush trotted out familiar themes. But, the whole thing had the warmth of an old friend’s den.
For my money though—and not only because today was the first day of school for my kids and I had to get up early—the best thing about the new show is the opening credits. It’s a given that the sequence had to feature New York. It was nicely done with tilt shift, that well-known photographic technique which renders everything tiny-seeming. Tilt shift might also be the keyword for what I hope Colbert does a little bit more. I’m sure the more he grows comfortable the weirder he’ll get. The more tilted and the more the focus of the show will shift. I, for one, will be tuning in every night. First for the credits, then for what’s to come.