Much attention has been paid to the variety of guests Stephen Colbert has been announcing for his first week on the air. Between the politicians, the entrepreneurs and the actors, his show stands to have the most unusual interviews in late night. But Jimmy Fallon, the reigning king, is not letting that stand. He’s announced a list of A-listers for next week that should be some strong competition for Colbert. And he’s not succumbing to the urge to switch up the type of guests he gets in response to Colbert’s more unusual approach. Will it work, or will Colbert truly change the type of people we expect to see on talk shows? It’s a little hard to imagine Jimmy Fallon interviewing Justice Stephen Breyer, as Colbert plans to do, since Breyer is probably not ready to play Box of Lies, or any of the other games Fallon has created. Let’s take a look at who he has on deck:
Monday, 9/7: Lebron James, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, and OMI
Tuesday, 9/8: Richard Gere, Jessica Simpson and Keith Urban
Wednesday, 9/9: Justin Timberlake, Ellen Degeneres and Macklemore and Ryan Lewis
Thursday, 9/10:Andy Samberg,Carrie Underwood
Friday, 9/1:Donald Trump,Terrence Howard andPharrell Williams
Those are some big names, and the timing of Timberlake’s appearance certainly seems well-timed, considering how much people like seeing him hang out with Fallon and the fact that he’s not really promoting anything specific right now. And of course, the Trump appearance seems pretty pointed. While Colbert may have gotten the presumed Republican nominee in Jeb Bush, Fallon is countering with the one everyone wants to see right now. It’s worth pointing out that despite the recent and abrupt end of his “Celebrity Apprentice” hosting, Trump has a longstanding relationship with NBC, the home of “The Tonight Show.”
So should Fallon be worried? When he first began doing the “Tonight Show,” his now-famous policy of getting celebs to goof off with him was totally new, so asking him to reinvent late night again seems a trifle unfair. Besides, under his leadership, the show isn’t really known for its hard-hitting interviews. Whether or not Colbert can generate conversation and online buzz with meaty, probing interviews with public figures is as much of a wild card as whether “Celebrity showcases more laid-back side” will always be as popular as it is now. Will Colbert fan versus Fallon fan become our way of judging people now, the way Conan O’Brien fan versus Jay Leno fan once was?
The bigger question for Colbert is whether he can make late night a whole show again, rather than breaking it up into segments for YouTube the way all of his peers are now. Are people ready to DVR late night?