News out of CBS is that Craig Ferguson’s “Late Late Show” is nearing a deal that would keep him on the show at least through 2014. As part of the deal, Ferguson’s show would also move to a bigger set. I know this is great news for a lot of folks, because the people who do prefer Ferguson over the other late night hosts prefer him hard, as in, they get really bent out of shape if anyone suggests that Ferguson is anything less than the best late night host on the networks. I think he’s great: Charming, affable, and creative, and like Fallon, he managed to stay above the fray during the late night wars.
With Ferguson closing in on the deal, and Letterman also in negotiations to re-up for a couple more years, however, there is still an open question about who might replace Dave in 2014 or 2016 or 2018. I don’t know that Ferguson can attract a substantially larger audience, and I know that — before “The Daily Show” came along — Jon Stewart had a holding contract to replace Dave. There is also Conan, stranded over on TBS, who could jump back to the networks. But as much as I like all three of those guys, an eventual replacement will probably need to reinvent late night television to stay relevant. The audiences for both Jay and Dave skew older, and as they die off, there will be a need to incorporate a lot more new media in order to thrive. I don’t know if Ferguson could pull it off, but I do know that Ferguson is responsible for the best cold open in talk-show history.