CBS Entertainment Chief Dodges Question About Fate Of Gasbag Stephen Colbert Character, While Touting Network’s Late Night Slate

CBS Entertainment chief Glenn Geller spent a goodish chunk of his TCA Q&A talking about his network’s late-night slate.

But Geller declined to discuss the status of CBS lawyers’ talks with Viacom/Comedy Central about the use of Gasbag Stephen Colbert by Actual Stephen Colbert on Late Show.

During his buzzy RNC and DNC convention shows, Colbert brought back Gasbag Stephen Colbert, who had starred in Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report for a decade. Late last month, Colbert said on Late Show that corporate lawyers were trying to kill Gasbag Stephen Colbert, explaining CBS lawyers heard from corporate lawyers, presumably at Comedy Central or its parent Viacom (he did not specify). Those lawyers gave CBS notice they thought Gasbag Stephen Colbert was their intellectual property. Therefore, Original Stephen Colbert said on his CBS show,“it is with a heavy heart that, thanks to corporate lawyers, the character of Stephen Colbert host of The Colbert Report will never be seen again.”

“What can I do?” Colbert said when his studio audience erupted with outrage. “The lawyers have spoken. I cannot reasonably argue I own my face or name.” Only then he introduced a new character Gasbag Stephen Colbert’s Equally Gasbaggy Identical Cousin.

“I’m not sure what is in Stephen’s head, but I’m sure if he were here he’d have a more clever answer,” Geller dodged this morning at TCA. “I think they addressed it on the show, and I will let those segments speak for themselves.”

At the top of his panel, during 20-minutes of announcements, Geller noted that about  year and a half ago, the network was “preparing to say goodbye to a television legend David Letterman and launch an unknown talent from UK at 12:30.” Fast-forward to today, and the network has “two superb new hosts” in Colbert and James Corden.

Announcing that Colbert will do three live post-debate Late Show broadcasts, Geller noted Colbert’s live broadcasts the week of the DNC and RNC had delivered “creatively impressive” two weeks of shows, calling it “topical comedy at its highest level.” Those live shows also clocked two of the biggest viral clips to date, he said, the biggest being the night Jon Stewart took over Colbert’s desk to talk about Donald Trump. Those episodes gave Colbert a much-needed ratings bump.  Colbert pulled ahead during the convention weeks, with his live shows on the nights of the Republican convention generating his most-watched week since early May, but the race with Kimmel has tightened again since the end of the conventions.

Geller did not focus on ratings, instead saying “already is a go-to for comedy and newsmaking interviews.”

CBS’s The Late Late Show host James Corden, meanwhile, hosted CBS’ highest-rated Tony Awards in five years, and his “Carpool Karaoke” continues to break viewing records, including his carpool with Adele, which is the most viral clip in late-night TV history.

“We’re proud of what we’ve accomplished … in a very short time,” Geller said.

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