David Letterman officially has a successor. Stephen Colbert will be the next Late Show host, CBS announced yesterday. I reflected on the news, and what this means for late night, at The Daily Beast, where I wrote,
With yesterday’s news that Stephen Colbert will take over the Late Show next year, the long-held notion of what it means to be a late-night host, and what it means to be a late-night audience, has been forever eradicated.
In 1992, your late-night options were Letterman and Leno, period. As of next year, the lineup will consist of Colbert, Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel on the broadcast networks, along with cable hosts like Conan O’Brien (remember him?), Jon Stewart and whomever replaces The Colbert Report. Late night is no longer all-or-nothing; it’s an all-you-can eat buffet. Thanks to the Internet, you can sample as many late-night clips from as many late-night shows as you’d like.
In the piece, I trace late-night’s evolution and transformation over the past two decades, and how Letterman has changed from scrappy innovator to odd man out. As Kimmel, Fallon and Colbert have proven time and again, “Late-night” is now late-night in name only.