Justin Peters is disappointed that Stephen Colbert’s interviews aren’t as good as they should be:
So when CBS announced that Colbert would replace David Letterman as host of The Late Show, I had high hopes that he would rejuvenate the late-night talk show celebrity-interview format. Here’s the late-night talk show paradox: Even though viewers ostensibly tune in to see the show’s celebrity guests, the interview segments with these guests are usually terrible. They’re perfunctory (“So I hear you’ve got a movie coming out”) and complacent (“Why don’t you tell us about it”) and characterized by the sort of chattering jocularity that reads as insincerity. Take the self-satisfaction of the Algonquin Round Table, replace the wit with whimsy, and subtract the dignity, literacy, and old-timey hats. That’s the state of late-night interviewing these days, in my opinion. I hate it.
To be clear, television executives clearly consider this a feature, not a bug. Late-night shows are supposed to be friendly, nonthreatening environments; otherwise, celebrities would simply decline to appear. And, up to a point, a good interviewer is supposed to make his guests feel comfortable, so that they will loosen up and act naturally. But this enforced congeniality also makes the shows all seem vaguely the same, which to me would seem to create an opportunity for a clever host, like Colbert, to build an audience by doing things differently—by eschewing late-night banalities and bringing some interrogative rigor to the interview format. But for the most part, Colbert hasn’t done it yet.