George Clooney welcomes Stephen Colbert to network TV/ photo courtesy of CBS
Gee, this guy seems familiar.
Those worried that "The Late Show With Stephen Colbert" would completely alienate itself from the host's "Colbert Report" persona had to be relieved by Tuesday's series premiere in which that beloved/despised character kept popping up to flash its unflappable grin.
"I used to play a narcissistic, conservative pundit," he told lead-off guest George Clooney. "Now I'm just a narcissist."
That tried-and-true display of unashamed ego was on display several times, from Colbert doing his own introduction to a line about how famous people always have something fascinating to say.
Colbert hinted at a more authentic representation of himself in the monologue's best line: "I've been searching for the real Stephen Colbert. I just hope I don't find him on Ashley Madison."
But any hope that that we would get a better idea of the "real" him so soon is asking way too much, especially in an episode that was so meticulously planned, it included Donald Trump jokes that passed their expiration date at least a week ago.None of the cameos really generated any big laughs, although it showed great sportsmanship on the part of head-to-head competitor Jimmy Fallon to appear in a couple of taped segments.
Still, there was plenty of reason to feel optimistic about Colbert's future.
The band, headed by the youthful Jon Batiste, offered an upbeat New Orleans-inspired sound, a nice alternative to the late-night scene. A star-studded version of "Everyday People" seemed a bit too "everyday" with the exception of Buddy Guy and Derek Trucks swapping guitar licks. Still, expect Batiste's versatility and deep contact list to come in handy in the upcoming weeks.
What will be even more valuable in these early days is Colbert's confidence. Most late-night hosts on opening night look like Albert Brooks in that sweat-drenched scene from "Broadcast News." Not Colbert. He seemed cool, calm and collected throughout the evening, especially during an interview with Jeb Bush in which he got the presidential candidate to point out at least one substantial difference he has with his older brother on policy.
Colbert will do just fine if he leaves the softballs to Fallon.
And an occasional visit from our ol' Comedy Central pal won't hurt, either.