CBS is considering hiring a woman for “The Late Late Show” as the TV network weighs a complete remodeling of its programming for night owls.
“12:30 is up in the air,” Leslie Moonves, chief executive officer of CBS Corp., said yesterday in an interview, referring to the early-morning time slot. “Obviously, we’re considering all sorts of candidates and women are among them. A woman would be great in late night.”
A female host would provide a contrast to the all-male lineup that now dominates late-night broadcast television and could attract new viewers. CBS is also considering keeping its current host, Craig Ferguson, whose contract ends in June. The network said yesterday Stephen Colbert would become host of “The Late Show” next year when David Letterman retires.
Chelsea Handler, who hosts a late-night show on Comcast Corp.’s E! network, is available and has let CBS know she’s interested in “The Late Late Show,” said a person with knowledge of the situation, who asked not to be identified because the talks are at an early stage.
Stephen Huvane, a publicist for Handler at Slate PR, didn’t respond to phone and e-mail requests for comment. CBS, based in New York, declined to comment. Handler, 39, is preparing to leave E! when her contract expires at the end of 2014, The Hollywood Reporter said last month, citing an interview with Irving Azoff, her manager.
Late shows that start past midnight, technically making them the earliest of the morning programs, give lesser-known comics an opportunity to make a mark.
Conan O’Brien, Jimmy Fallon and David Letterman started their hosting careers on those shows, where producers are free to take more risks with quirky material.
Women haven’t always been a rarity in late-night programming. Three decades ago, Joan Rivers was Johnny Carson’s regular guest host on NBC’s “The Tonight Show.” Her efforts to start a competing show on Fox in the late 1980s faltered. Fox also tapped comedian Wanda Sykes to host a shortlived late-night show on Saturdays in 2009.
At “The Late Late Show,” which is taped at CBS studios in Los Angeles, Ferguson starts with a so-called cold open, before any credits or opening music, talking straight into the camera to the TV audience. He sometimes uses hand puppets in skits and employs a robot as a side-kick.
In recent years Ferguson, 51, has branched out, supplying the voice of characters in the animated movies “Brave” from Walt Disney Co.’s Pixar and DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc.’s “How to Train Your Dragon.” He played a central character in “The Drew Carey Show” on ABC from 1996 to 2004.
Cheryl Maisel, a spokeswoman for Ferguson at PMK-BNC, didn’t respond to phone and e-mail requests for comment. He’s hosted “The Late Late Show” since 2005.
CBS moved quickly to fill the void in its late-night show created by Letterman’s April 3 retirement announcement, reaching a five-year deal with the host of Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report.” Colbert, 49, has hosted the political parody on the Viacom Inc.-owned network since 2005.
Moonves said the network was inundated with inquires.
“When you want to get something done, you do it quickly,” Moonves said. “We got calls from everyone in the book, from the ridiculous to the sublime.”
CBS fell 3.8 percent to $59.98 yesterday in New York and has declined 5.9 percent this year. Viacom, also based in New York, lost 3.6 percent to $82.83 and has retreated 5.2 percent so far in 2014.
Since mid-February, when NBC introduced new hosts for its talk shows, “Late Night With Seth Meyers” has attracted an average of 2.02 million viewers a day, compared with 1.35 million for Ferguson on CBS, according to Nielsen data supplied by the networks. “The Colbert Report,” airing at 11:30 p.m., drew 1.36 million viewers a night last week.