Imagine if they installed a really good webcam in Stephen Colbert’s home. I would imagine CBS could afford the best and get him the best Internet that money can buy. Imagine if in another location — isolated, unable to infect another guest or himself — you had bandleader Jon Batiste at a keyboard. Then you get a couple of interesting guests in front of webcams in their homes or wherever they are. Everyone’s connected and it all feeds into a computer controlled by a director who handles the chore of switching, as Stu does himself, to close-ups, two-shots, the “Brady Bunch” look…whatever.
Everyone chats like they would on any talk show. Batiste plays us in and out of breaks and provides underscore where appropriate. The director could also roll-in prerecorded clips and toss in title cards and credits and such. It would be easy to arrange, incredibly cheap to do, way better than reruns, and I don’t know why they aren’t setting this up right now. Just when a lot of us are feeling trapped in our homes, the networks could be giving us fresh, topical content that doesn’t make us feel so isolated and alone.
So why isn’t someone trying to make this happen? Maybe they are.
Sure enough, this week, Colbert started doing opening segments that way — Monday night from his bathtub, Tuesday from his backyard next to his grill (watch above) — which were then tacked onto the front of reruns of shows from a few weeks ago. Tuesday night, the Jimmys followed his lead (Kimmel calls his a “minilogue”) with segments posted online but not weaved into the broadcast versions. I hope that means the entire staff is continuing to get paid during the Coronavirus-forced hiatus. It probably won’t be long before we see Mark’s other suggestion put into effect, with guests appearing via Skype.
Unfortunately, the material just isn’t that good — I flashed back to when hosts of an earlier era tried to pull off full shows during writers strikes — or perhaps we’re living in such a horrific time that the jokes simply can’t land. Watching each of them try to time their comedy without an audience response reminded me of what it was like doing radio shows, where I never got instant feedback on an ad-lib or a quick quip, no matter how hysterical or lame.
Now the TV hosts are learning how much harder it is to work without a pumped-up crowd that over-reacts and laughs en masse at everything they do. On top of the technical challenge, I bet they find that a bit humbling. But at least they’re trying.