Colbert’s ‘Late Show’ has become propaganda for Democrats

22 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Colbert is slipping in the ratings.

After an initial burst of interest spurred by CBS’s big-bucks saturation advertising campaign for “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” the show’s ratings have tanked and it is now running third in late night behind NBC’s Jimmy Fallon and ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel, who rarely has managed second place before. The expectation was laid out, plain as can be, in the first reports of Stephen Colbert’s hiring by CBS to succeed David Letterman as host of “The Late Show.” The news of Mr. Colbert’s appointment inflamed conservative commentators like Rush Limbaugh, who said CBS had “declared war on the heartland of America.” But CBS executives made it clear that they expected Mr.

The survey, conducted by Penn, Schoen & Berland, comes five years after the entertainment glossy first polled viewers about a very different late-night lineup that included Jay Leno, David Letterman and Jon Stewart. Fallon’s dominance isn’t really surprising; he’s got the cachet of The Tonight Show behind him, and his viral-friendly shenanigans were handily thrashing Colbert’s Late Show predecessor Dave Letterman well before Colbert stepped in to fill his shoes. The Kimmel thing is slightly more alarming for Late Show fans, though, since Colbert spent his first several weeks running well ahead of the former Man Show star.

Three months into his tenure at CBS, Colbert has taken a more political approach to late night by featuring guests whose politics have often taken center stage. Nearly twice as many Republicans are watching Kimmel as Colbert, who has turned “Late Night” into a sort of wannabe MSNBC show. “Because comedy doesn’t work unless the underlying premise rings true, just about no conservative finds Colbert funny,” a Post columnist opined on April 11, 2014. “So, though he will be dropping the faux-con shtick when he takes over Letterman’s chair, millions of conservatives won’t be watching. CBS is essentially writing off half the potential audience before the first show even airs.” Ratings show that 47% of Colbert’s viewers identify as Democrats, 17% as Republicans. That’s what Colbert — famous for his satirical portrayal of a conservative commentator on Comedy Central’s “Colbert Report” — is supposed to be going for in his new job.

When looking at the numbers, Fallon (27%), Kimmel (30%), and Colbert (31%) all attract a near equal percentage of self-described political independents. Kimmel’s audience is evenly split — 33% Democrats, 32% Republicans, while Fallon’s is nearly so (36% Democrats, 31% Republicans). “Colbert Nation is filled with wealthy, socially liberal men who overwhelmingly support legalizing marijuana and want Bernie Sanders to be president,” pollster Jon Penn explained to The Hollywood Reporter. It’s important because, even on an average night on CBS, Colbert is playing to a bigger audience (more than 3 million viewers) than he did on his best night on cable (2.5 million for his curtain call last December). There aren’t many earth-shattering revelations in this year’s survey – Fallon’s dominance has held strong even after the much-hyped Late Show debut of Stephen Colbert – but it’s an interesting look into what each host brings to the table.

A piece this week over at Mediaite suggests Colbert’s strong political leanings are to blame, citing a recent Hollywood Reporter poll that shows the former Colbert Report mastermind has—by far—the most politically polarized following among the top late night hosts. (Only 17 percent of the Colbert viewers polled identified as Republicans, as opposed to 47 percent as Democrats, a far less even mix than his two competitors, especially Kimmel, who’s pretty much dead even.) Colbert’s drawn strong praise for not abandoning his political satire roots in the move to CBS, but it’s possible that his sharpened sensibilities don’t mesh well with the apolitical blandness of late-night talk. (Back-up theory: Nobody trusts a talk show host who isn’t named Jimmy. While Fallon’s audience leans Democrat by five points (36%-31%), and Kimmel’s audience leans Democrat by one point (34%-33%), Colbert’s audience is much less politically diverse.

Some 30% of Colbert viewers report that they are atheists, which is the No. 1 “religion category” choice for “Late Show” viewers. (Memo to the US Marine Corps: Don’t bother advertising on Colbert. Fallon has a broader appeal in many respects – he was more popular with women than any other host and was the top pick when viewers were asked who they’d want to grab a beer with. Manufacturers of pastel capri pants for men, on the other hand, should not miss out on this opportunity.) Of course, CBS could spin this by saying that Colbert’s viewers are the sort desired by advertisers. He admitted during his time at the “Daily Show” that he had discovered his liberal politics there, but even some conservatives seemed to respect his brand of comedy, and there was actually relatively little backlash against a guy whose faux conservative alter ego was hardly flattering for the right side of the political spectrum. Viewers were more likely to associate the words “authentic,” “cool dude” and “party animal” with the Saturday Night Live alum, than with Kimmel or Colbert.

And that could be a problem for CBS, which, like all of the major networks, will want to attract Democratic and Republican viewers throughout the next year of presidential electioneering. In the opening week of November, for the first time since his Sept. 8 debut, Colbert fell to third place in the critical 18-to-49-year-old ratings demographic. Consider The Atlantic’s summary of his recent political interviews: “Even by Colbert’s standards, his interview with [Ted] Cruz featured much tougher treatment than any of his other political interviews to date . . . Colbert’s CBS audience is 47 percent Democrat and just 17 percent Republican, according to the findings of D.C.-based polling firm Penn Schoen Berland.

Compare Colbert’s partisan breakdown with the nearly even splits of Fallon (36 percent Democrat/31 percent Republican) and Kimmel (34/33), and it’s apparent that Colbert’s competitors do the whole broad-appeal thing better than he does. And when Bernie Sanders appeared on the show last week, Colbert gave him space to deliver his campaign talking points with little interruption.” Almost as if he was trying out a third personality — a parody of a know-nothing liberal pundit — Colbert made a complete ass of himself in front of Cruz by suggesting that the senator, being religious, necessarily equated his opponents with Satan. “You’re a religious man, right, you’re a religious man? . . .

What about your opponents politically, are they diabolical?” Colbert then attempted to argue the Constitution with Cruz, which is a bit like giving chess tips to Garry Kasparov. Cruz reminded the baffled comic of the existence of something called the Tenth Amendment, which reserves to the states those powers not specifically granted the federal government, and in so doing actually won a round of applause from Colbert’s audience. But the current dramatic skew could have something to do with stuff like this: Support for same-sex marriage has risen dramatically in recent years, but more than a third of the country still opposes it. Colbert is so unremittingly hostile to Republicans that he will shortly find conservative invitees declining to appear. (Except Ted Cruz, who would argue with a tree stump.) That means the Colbert show risks turning into an echo chamber in which viewers doze off as Colbert and his liberal guests beam lovingly at each other like a mother and child.

That’s what we in the comedy business call courage, and it pretty much sets the tone for the rest of this memoir, in which Ferguson admirably avoids wisecracks and instead goes for something like wisdom.”

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