There's a simple rule in entertainment as in any successful business - know what the people want and give it to them.
In the days and weeks leading up to the premiere of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, there was much speculation about who Stephen Colbert actually was, how much of what we'd seen up until now was a made up persona, and which version of whom would be hosting The Late Show.
I don't mind telling you that it's been a tough year for a talk show junkie like me. I come by my talk show addiction honestly, having grown up with the yardstick of Johnny Carson, Merv Griffin, Mike Douglas, and Dick Cavett to measure future talk show hosts by.
I should also say, in the interest of full disclosure, that it's entirely possible I was in some required college science class with Stephen Colbert, since we were both at Northwestern the same years. I wouldn't know if this was, in fact, true, of course, because I was asleep through much of my required science classes, and therefore have no recollection of classmates or anything else from it. You, Stephen?
I, like Colbert himself, watched David Letterman from his inception in late night, and I also reveled in Jon Stewart's entire tenure at The Daily Show from first show to last, from which talents like Colbert emerged to have their own successful careers.
So saying farewell to Craig Ferguson, David Letterman, and Jon Stewart in less than a year, left me not only bereft, but relegated to watching what was left of late-night TV.
I mean no disrespect to the two Jimmy's, James, and Seth. They all seem like lovely people. I just don't find celebrity drinking games and reenactments of Paula Abdul videos to be my particular cup of tea when I tune in to watch a talk show. (And I also mean no disrespect whatsoever to alcoholic beverages or to Paula Abdul. Both have provided wonderful entertainment at appropriate times.)
I was a bit worried that all the hype leading up to Colbert's debut would only leave us all disappointed if, in any way, he didn't live up to expectations.
My worries were for naught, however, because Colbert delivered big time. Opening singing of the national anthem - check. Cameo by Jon Stewart - check. Funny, intelligent, accessible - check. Donald Trump jokes - check. George Clooney - sigh - and check. Kick-ass band - check. Political interview - check.
Short of giving everyone a car like Oprah, I'm not sure what he could have done better. I bought in. I was immediately hooked... and reassured that I would have something to watch every night from now on. Order has been restored to my world. Thank you, CBS.
I know that we as a society love to build people up just so we can tear them down. We dub people kings and queens of things - the King of Pop, the Queen of Soul. Okay, so maybe it's just musicians that do that. But the point is I am predicting that The Late Show will reign triumphant for years to come, because, as it turns out, what we wanted and what they gave us... was Stephen Colbert.