James Corden helped to change late-night television... which is about to change yet again with his departure from the after-midnight hours
Though not a complete unknown when he succeeded Craig Ferguson in CBS’s Late Late Show chair circa 2015—having already won a Tony for One Man, Two Guvnors on Broadway and co-created/starred in U.K. sitcom Gavin & Stacey—the rather cherubic Englishman was new to the majority of North American audiences. But over the past eight years, he’s become a truly global pop-culture icon.
Now, he brings down the curtain on his claim to fame via a final week of shows capping off on Thursday, with CBS also giving him a same-night primetime special, The Last Last Late Late Show.
One sure highlight of the primetime hour will be an appearance by Tom Cruise, who has partnered with Corden for some memorably elaborate Late Late Show sketches, including a largely aerial one that helped promote last summer’s release of Top Gun: Maverick. This time, Corden and Cruise team up in a number recorded during the recent Los Angeles staging of The Lion King.
A winner of seven Emmys, The Late Late Show With James Corden established a formula of having multiple guests interviewed by Corden at once, frequently making for delightfully peculiar exchanges between those sharing the couch. Another element of the program has transformed how music is presented on television.
His most iconic recurring segment, “Carpool Karaoke,” proved popular enough to be spun off into its very own Apple TV+ series. For those unfamiliar, the host takes a drive with a pop star while crooning the given artist’s own tunes. Guests have ranged from Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga to Barbra Streisand and Elton John. Editions featuring Adele and Paul McCartney (the latter expanded into a one-hour special later) have been hugely beloved standouts.
Other signature segments have included “Drop the Mic”—a rap competition that also became its own show for a couple of years—as well as “Crosswalk the Musical,” with seemingly impromptu musical numbers staged at actual crosswalks, and Corden’s temporary substitution for workers at various jobs in “Take a Break.” He’s also quizzed studio audience members on what happened earlier in a given episode in “Were You Paying Attention?” (If they showed they weren’t paying attention, they had to leave.)
Corden long has maintained that he didn’t expect or necessarily want The Late Late Show to be the thrust of the rest of his career, which he has demonstrated during the program’s run by also appearing in movies including Ocean’s 8, Cats and (in voice only) Peter Rabbit. His immediate plan is to return to residency in England, where he has brought The Late Late Show several times. Whatever comes next, the man departs North American TV having left his own, thoroughly unique mark.
The Last Last Late Late Show airs Thursday, April 27 on CTV & CBS