James Corden: US falls for 'unknown Brit'

Fans and critics praise Gavin & Stacey star, who blends humility and glitz on The Late Late Show


Audiences and critics have given James Corden the thumbs-up after the British star made his debut as host of US chat show The Late Late Show. The Gavin & Stacey actor, who is relatively unknown in America, has replaced the popular Scottish comic Craig Ferguson at the helm of CBS's The Late Late Show. Following a publicity blitz in the US, Corden secured Tom Hanks and Mila Kunis for his first show, which was recorded in front of a live audience in Los Angeles and aired last night. The actor opened the show by addressing a slightly bemused American audience who had little idea of who he was. Corden introduced himself by saying he was a 36-year-old from an English town called High Wycombe, which most English people haven't heard of.

He then told audiences he was surprised to be there. "Believe me, however shocked you are that I am standing here doing this job, you will never be as shocked as I am." Corden promised to try to put a smile on viewers' faces as they went to sleep. Critics and audiences obliged.

The Daily Telegraph reports that the Twitter response from US viewers was "remarkably warm", and Corden "appeared to slip effortlessly into the slot vacated by Craig Ferguson, a Scottish comedian".

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

There had been suggestions that viewers would struggle to understand Corden's accent and would dislike his approach of bringing his interview guests out together, says the Telegraph. "But none of this appeared to bother viewers" who took to Twitter to say they "loved" Corden and the show was "brilliant".

On the celebrity news website E Online, Lauren Piester writes: "While we'll always miss Craig Ferguson, his robot friend Geoff Petersen, and that dancing horse, we're already kind of in love with James Corden after just one episode".

"He's different," says Tim Goodman in the Hollywood Reporter. "Corden doesn't put a layer of cool between him and the viewer (or his guests). It's a welcome trait, one that should put guests at ease."

Goodman also praises the show's standout moment when Hanks and Corden act out bits from a series of Hanks films. "It was very funny, very creative and played to Corden's strengths as a multi-talented performer."

On The Wrap, Diane Gordon says: "Corden is a talent worth watching for his sheer likability, musical and comedy talent". She adds that the British actor is "bending the late-night comedy show formula to fit his skill set, which given this first outing is impressive".

The Daily Beast's Kevin Fallon calls Corden "endearing", but is cautiously optimistic about the future of the show. "The British thesp's first Late Late Show was a perfectly pleasant hour," he says, "and a stronger debut than Seth Meyers and Jimmy Fallon before him." But, he adds, "the perspiration-filled and at times hectic hour hinted that Corden isn't quite sitting comfortably in his late-night seat just yet."

Fallon notes that late-night viewership numbers are down sharply from their heyday, but says that the genre has had a revival thanks to its variety format and the new shareability of content the next day.

Corden, "a classic song-and-dance man with serious acting chops and a ceaseless let-me-entertain-you willingness", says Fallon, "is tailor-made for success in that realm."

Can James Corden cut it as new host of The Late Late Show?

23 March

British comedy actor James Corden is set to make a controversial debut as the host of one of America's biggest television shows, CBS's Late Late Show tonight. Corden was tapped as the replacement to the popular former host Craig Ferguson, following his predecessor's exit from the show in December last year, in a move that has baffled US TV critics and fans of the show.

Corden, 36, seems nervous about the gig, reports Digital Spy. Speaking late last year, shortly after the announcement, he said: "It's inconceivable to me that it can be anything other than a total car crash. We'll see."

The actor is relatively unknown in the US, but a recent role in the film Into the Woods, a hit Broadway run of the comedy A Man and Two Governors, and a string of appearances on US comedy and talk shows has gone some way to boosting his profile. So how will the cuddly Corden fare in the high-pressure late-night TV spot?

Former X Factor executive producer turned 'show runner' for the CBS network Ben Winston told the Daily Telegraph he was expecting a slow start. "We're taking over a show that hasn't been doing amazingly in the ratings with a guy that absolutely nobody has heard of," said Winston. "We are not going to succeed for a good six to nine months. We are not going to come anywhere but last."

Winston believes that over time American viewers will realise how talented Corden is as a performer, and "how he's a kind, warm man," and therefore "the right voice to speak to America before they go to sleep." He adds: "I think people will eventually come to us."

The Daily Beast reports that Corden has been doing his damnedest to drum up an audience for the first episode by painting his own billboard in LA advertising the premiere. In a cheeky (quite literally) marketing stunt, he's also "gone full Kim Kardashian" and bared his behind in the pages of GQ.

But Benji Wilson in the Daily Telegraph writes that before the first episode has even aired, Corden has sparked negative publicity, with rumours circulating that the dress rehearsal left the audience "nonplussed, with many failing to find him funny, or perhaps more crucially, understand his accent".

Wilson also points out however that Craig Ferguson was "a little-known Scottish comic" before he became the Late Late Show host, and John Oliver, first on The Daily Show and now on HBO's Last Week Tonight, "also shows that the Americans have no problem with a who-he?"

Veteran talk show host David Letterman has been an outspoken Corden sceptic, describing him as "that chubby guy from Great Britain". But Helen Nianias writes in The Independent, that in spite of doubts about the Brit's ability to break America, Corden has already attracted a bank of high-profile guests, including David Beckham, Simon Cowell, Claire Danes, Michael Douglas, Will Ferrell, and Jeff Goldblum.

Nianias adds that Corden was able to get the notoriously coy Mila Kunis to finally admit she was married to Aston Kutcher, proving that "he could well be the perfect man for the gig". Letterman, she says, "may be eating his words before long".

The show will be recorded in front of a live audience from Monday to Friday. It will air on the US network CBS at 11.35pm CST (4.35am UK time on Tuesday).

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.