When it was announced that Gavin and Stacey and Into the Woods star James Corden was taking over American chat series The Late Late Show, there was a loud chorus of “Eh?”-s from this side of the pond, and “Who?”-s from the other.
Putting Corden, who is a virtual unknown in the States, in charge of such a project seemed odd – but we decided to wait until his new chat show had aired before passing judgement.
Now the first reviews are in for his debut, and it’s looking good for the League of Their Own host – most critics seem to have responded to his style (in particular a Willy Wonka and Whiplash-inspired opening video which saw Corden get the job by finding a “Golden Ticket”), though also noting that the polish needs a bit of work.
Variety were generally impressed with Corden’s opener, describing it as” a slightly uneven premiere with moments of inspired lunacy and some clear areas for the newbie host to work on”, but adding that the new host came across as “natural and likable” – even if he “cackled a little too loudly at his own jokes.”
TVline also noticed this habit – “If you’re laughing harder than your audience, move on to the next subject, buddy” – and wished Corden had focused more on his gags than just seeming grateful to get the gig. Reviewer Michael Slezak also found one “awkward” moment with guest Mila Kunis (where Corden discussed their sex lives) too much to bear – but overall believed that the Brit “came off as charming and unexpectedly earnest for a late-night host”.
The New York Daily news was even more complimentary, praising Corden’s “low-key banter, built more on everyday conversation than show biz flash” – but thought one sketch with guest Tom Hanks (where he and Corden played through the actor’s entire filmography with the help of a greenscreen) went on too long.
The Mirror was perhaps the most effusive in praise, finding Corden’s performance to be “funny but loveably self-deprecating”, praising his interview skills and banter with Hanks and Mila Kunis and concluding that “if his first performance is anything to go by, this new project will indeed travel well.”
TheWrap similarly commended Corden’s maiden voyage, saying that “as debuts go, his was very good”, and comparing him to US TV host Jimmy Fallon with whom they believed he shared a “feel-good” style.
“The humour and musicality of Corden’s show are similar in spirit, if not execution, to Fallon,” noted their reviewer, before commenting that on his own merits “Corden is a talent worth watching for his sheer likability, musical and comedy talent.”
And finally, The Hollywood Reporter noted that “as first nights go, this was a winner for Corden,”. Praising the new host’s “affable and sincere” style, the publication was another to equate him to Fallon, labelling the sketch with Hanks (which seems to have been a bit of televisual Marmite with reviewers) “inspired”, adding that it “played to Corden’s strengths as a multi-talented performer”.
In the words of their reviewer, Tim Goodman, it was “very much a show under construction” and, indeed, we’ll all have to wait and see what Corden builds with it. We’re personally hoping for some Smithy cameos ourselves – that guy really knows how to wrangle celebrities if his Red Nose Day appearances are anything to go by…