Johnny Carson’s more than 30-year reign as the king of late-night television “The Tonight Show” had a profound effect on the hosts, who acted as if reaching that “throne” was the pinnacle of show success. accordingly.
Trevor Noah’s decision to walk away from “The Daily Show,” after James Corden announced his plans to leave CBS’s “Late Late Show” next year, indicates that for the new generation of comedians, making it to the late-night slot isn’t a must. it is considered a life sentence.
Carson’s direct heirs, David Letterman and Jay Leno, clearly saw that “The Tonight Show” is the most prized prize in television comedy. The third member of the trio, Conan O’Brien, who was promoted to the night shift after Carson said “A very heartfelt goodnight” in 1992, showed the same cavalier mentality by hanging around (albeit in different rooms), for example. his idol Letterman, for more than three decades.
Those who took the reins of that trio, spiritually if not literally, apparently remain in their seats, Jimmy Kimmel recently extended his ABC contract for a 23rd season, and Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Fallon settled at CBS and NBC, respectively.
However, this reflects a mindset rooted in a pre-television era where people were considered creatures of habit, those who went to bed watching Carson year after year, no matter who the guests were or who took weeks of vacation at the end. his run
In that sense, “Saturday Night Live,” while a somewhat different animal, represents the epitome of the inertia that governed television when it debuted under Gerald Ford, adding new faces to the machinery but moving forward ready to launch the show. his 48th season.
However, after taking over from Jon Stewart seven years ago, Noah made it clear he still has comedic hills to climb that don’t involve sitting behind a desk.
“After seven years, I feel it’s time,” he said. “I realized there’s another part of my life that I want to keep exploring.”
On the bright side, more late-night billing will create opportunities for fresh voices and multi-talented talent at a time when late-night series seemed to be piling everyone on board.
Notably, the latest generation of latenight talent is dominated by those who started working on Stewart’s version of “The Daily Show,” including Colbert, perennial Emmy winner John Oliver, Noah and Samantha Bee.
After some time in the wilderness, Stewart has settled on a second-act version that has included plenty of activism for the causes he believes in – highlighted by his advocacy for veterans – as well as a show for Apple TV +. Not even Letterman and Leno mimicked the possibility that Carson would actually retire when he left “Tonight.”
Where Noah and Corden go from here remains to be seen. Compared to the nocturnal age that Carson defined, however, we have moved on to a different game of thrones.