I’m disappointed in Craig Ferguson. While I’ve praised him and enjoyed his show in the past, the magic has worn off. The biggest reason: his interviews.
When a guest sits down, Ferguson picks up a blue card — like the ones all other talk show hosts have in front of them, ostensibly full of questions for the guest — and rips it up, tossing the pieces onto the floor behind him. It’s his way of saying, “I don’t do interviews like everyone else. We’re just going to have a conversation.” That’s all well and good, but a conversation has to start somewhere, and far too often Ferguson has nowhere to start or, if he does, nowhere to proceed to.
Take a couple of nights ago, when Ferguson’s guest was Michael Caine. Here you have a screen legend who has just published his autobiography, “The Elephant To Hollywood.” Caine is a great storyteller with a remarkable career. There are so many interesting avenues to explore that my only frustration with having him as a guest would be that there would never be enough time to ask him all the things I want to hear him talk about.
Unfortunately, Ferguson punted the opportunity, and it was entirely his fault. On most of these shows, guests are pre-interviewed by a producer who compiles a list of questions or simple bullet points so the host can guide the guest into those areas of conversation. But it’s also incumbent upon the host to have spent some time thinking about what they want to get out of the guest. Without the pre-interview, that burden falls even more heavily on the host.
In the case of the Caine interview, it was clear Ferguson hadn’t prepared anything and hadn’t bothered to even skim through the book. In fact, twice in the segment, Ferguson leafed through the book as if hoping something would pop out of there that he could ask Caine about, but the best he could do was show a photo of Caine and Sean Connery from “The Man Who Would Be King.” What makes this even more disappointing is that Ferguson is clearly a Caine fan — it’s not like he had to endure a conversation with Justin Bieber.
At the very least, Ferguson could have talked to Caine about the tough, working-class backgrounds they have in common. Caine steered the discussion in that direction at one point, talking about filming “Harry Brown” in the very projects he grew up in, yet Ferguson didn’t pick up the ball and run with it.
Anyone who can’t get 20 good minutes out of Michael Caine just isn’t doing their job. He’s been a delightful interviewee many times on many shows, having lived a life full of cinematic adventures going back five decades. He’s made some terrific movies and several clunkers, and I look forward to reading his autobiography.
One thing’s for certain — Craig Ferguson didn’t spoil it for me.