The highly anticipated debut of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert just wrapped up. After all the anticipation and curiosity as to what Colbert would bring to the network late night landscape, the moment was finally here. Here is a recap of the night, along with my thoughts on how it went.

Cold Open/Monologue

The cold open featured Colbert singing the national anthem in various locations. Eventually it concludes on a baseball field, with an umpire (Jon Stewart, of course) encouraging us to “Play ball!”

We then cut to Stephen emerging to the crowd, who greeted him with the usual chants of “Stephen!” (Poor James Corden, there was never a chance they wouldn’t run late tonight) Stephen opens with “Hello nation!”, a nice little shoutout to the Report days. Jean Baptiste and Stay Human sound great, and bring a softer jazzy counterpart to the legendary Roots crew on NBC. Colbert has no sidekick, a wise decision given his own stage presence.

The set looks terrific, both traditional and modern. Colbert delivers a solid monologue, then cuts to the new theme song for the show, a nice friendly tune that fits well with Stay Human’s style.

To the desk!

Stephen instructs his director (Jimmy, a name diehard Colbert Report viewers will recognize) to get a better look at his new desk. It’s very sleek, and obviously not nearly as ostentatious or “C”-shaped as his previous desk. He shows off the rest of the set, up to the stained glass dome at the top now adorned with Stephen’s face. We can tell right off the bat that the real Stephen is every bit as good as the character, and that really the two aren’t so different at all when you strip out the politics angle. Colbert then closes with a bizarre ad placement sequence about selling his soul to the devil, brought to you by Sabre.

We return from commercial to discuss the election, and of course Stephen can’t resist jumping right on board the Trump bandwagon. Stephen’s jokes on Trump are great and prove that he’ll still delve into political territory, albeit with a different angle.

Interview #1: Clooney

George Clooney comes out for what ends up being quite a fun first interview. Gone are the days of Stephen running around hyping up the audience about himself when an interviewee appears — when the crowd begins chanting again, Colbert insists, “He’s the guest, not me!” Colbert and Clooney share some laughs over the fact that they don’t really know each other, but of course celebrity power has brought them together tonight. They close with a joking trailer for Clooney’s fake movie “Decision Strike”, which you know you totally would watch.

Interview #2: Jeb Bush

This one was less fun. Jeb Bush comes out, and the energy is rather awkward. Jeb seems friendly enough, but it’s clear he’s not comfortable. It doesn’t help that Stephen is not about to go lightly just because it’s his first show; he plainly states to Bush that he will not vote for him at all. Stephen takes a no-nonsense approach to the interview as a whole. He cuts to his family in the audience, and then uses this as a lead-in to ask Jeb about his brother. (Jeb, for his part, kind of steps around answering the question)

Music Finale

To close out the show, Jean Baptiste and Stay Human perform “Everyday People” with several musical guests, none of whom I initially was able to recognize. Nonetheless, it was a nice ending to the night.

Summary and final thoughts

It’s clear that Stephen belongs here. The show had its rough patches that figure to be worked out over the coming weeks, but Stephen just seems like a natural on network television. The tone of the show is that of a less political, less egotistical Colbert Report, bringing over the best elements from that era while creating a unique new voice for late night television. Colbert figures to challenge Fallon’s current late-night monopoly, assuming viewers react as positively as I think they will. It will be fun to watch the show develop over the next month or so, but it seems as though Colbert hasn’t lost a step in switching over to CBS.

A few stray observations

  • The graphics as they cut to commercial could definitely be improved. Kinda gives off a morning show vibe.
  • Stephen offered a nice tribute to his predecessor, David Letterman, without whom this show wouldn’t even exist.
  • Looks like Jon Stewart is on board as a co-executive producer, via the credits.
  • Maybe it was the lighting, but Clooney looked more orange than Trump.

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