The Late Late post about The Late Late Show

19th November 2010 • Blog Post by Ben Paddon •

On Tuesday Matt Smith appeared as a guest on American late-night chat show The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, and Yours Truly was lucky enough to be in the audience. It didn’t occur to me to actually write about it until I mentioned it to some of the other URP!ers, at which point I’m sure they all tried to reach across the Atlantic and throttle me to death with their bare hands. Or something.

Oh, if you’re not interested in reading my lengthy recap because “Studio audience story, boring”, you might be interested in reading it to find out how long Matt Smith intends to continue playing the Doctor for. Read on…

If you’re interested in watching the show, it’s up on YouTube in convenient chunks. I won’t go to the pains of embedding them, particularly as The Powers That Be won’t let me, but here are some handy dandy links for you:

[Cold Open + Monologue]
[Email Twitter Attack with guest Chris Hardwick]
[Interview with Matt Smith]
[Obligatory “Get tickets to see the show” commercial]
[“What Did We Learn From The Show Tonight, Craig?”]

Those videos are subject to be shot out of a cannon directly into the sun at the behest of the copyright owners, although they appear to have been rather forgiving of it so far so who knows?

So before I talk about the show proper, allow me a moment to confess something – I’ve never been to a show taping before. Not once. I have friends in London who probably go to show tapings all the time, probably using them to occupy themselves on otherwise uneventful evenings (“I’m bored, shall we go to see QI being filmed?” / “Oh, I suppose so.”) but I’d never been to one before. And, as a word of advice, I would suggest never going to a taping with me at all. Ever.

I’m not kidding. We parked the car an hour earlier at 1:50pm knowing (or rather, believing) that we had to be at the studio by 2pm and that we’d parked at a shopping center a good fifteen-minute walk away, and I was pretty vocal about about how worried I was that we wouldn’t make it and get turned away.

As it was we didn’t get let in until 3:30pm, so we spent a fair bit of time in the line with other fans of Craig Ferguson and Doctor Who alike. I like to think I fall into both camps. Americans make a big deal out of Conan O’Brien, and certainly Conan is an interesting and slightly bizarre late-night talk show host, but Craig always comes across as far more genuine than his contemporaries. He seems more interested in just having a good time and enjoying himself. I can’t fault that.

However it became clear that rather a few people who had come to the taping were there just for Matt Smith, and there was concern from the production team that there would be too many Doctor Who fans and not enough fans of Mr. Ferguson. It was not an invalidated worry – the sheer number of fezzes, scarves and Sonic Screwdrivers in line was very clear, and while a couple of people had come dressed as the Doctor (one Eleven and, oddly, one Four) almost nobody had come dressed as Craig Ferguson. It was a concern.

All four of the people in my group were toting Sonic Screwdrivers, and Ray wore a fez and a bow tie. For this reason we were the first to be pulled aside by production assistants and told, in no uncertain terms, that if we didn’t drop the Who crap we wouldn’t be let in. That’s not to say they weren’t friendly about it – they wanted us to get in, but the Producers were apparently shitting their pants. Fair dos – Ray lost the bow tie and the fez, we stowed our Sonics away in Michelle’s purse, and we were allowed to return to our place in line. Which was nice.

Oddly the cosplayers managed to get in without a fuss.

I’ll skip the boring part where I bumped into my friend Jay’s girlfriend Bronwen, who works for CBS and bumped Helen and I up to kick-ass seats, and start talking about the show itself.

Blimey, that studio is small. It seats 105 people, and the stage itself is probably no bigger than a decent-sized living room. It looks a lot bigger on TV thanks to clever set dressing and camera work.

The monologue and the cold open were filmed in reverse order. This is probably because they want a fantastic audience reaction when Craig steps out onto the set to give his monologue. Secondly, the cold open was supposed to feature a fantastic song-and-dance number using Orbital’s Doctor Who theme remix with lyrics written and performed by Craig, but they didn’t get clearance to use the track and so nobody outside of the production team will ever see that dance number.

Except for those of us in the audience, of course, who got to see a recording of the dress rehearsal. Not much I can tell you about it other than that it was remarkably well-choreographed and that the lyrics explained the basic premise of the Doctor Who and some information on its broadcast history. It was rather clever, truth be told, and it’s a shame that it never made it to the show proper. Here’s hoping it leaks some point soon.

So with a Who-themed night, it’s no surprise that the regular Email Twitter Attack segment featured almost exclusively emails and tweets about Doctor Who. Chris Hardwick was a lot funnier than I thought he’d be as well, owing to the fact that he’s actually a huge Doctor Who fan and drew on that for a lot of his jokes. So there we are.

Before long it was the defining moment, the reason most of the 105-strong audience had turned up for today’s shooting – the interview with Matt Smith. Now if you’ve already watched the show you’ll be thinking to yourself, “Blimey (or possibly Goddamn if I’m American), that’s a short, oddly-edited clip from “Vampires in Venice” that they used there.” You may be interested to know that they actually showed a fair bit more of that scene to the audience, starting from about the point when the Doctor turns around to see the vampires and ending with him running up the stairs (no library card moment, but we did get to see the full “Tell me the whole plan!” moment as opposed to just the “One day that’ll work” line as seen in the broadcast version of the show). In terms of showing an American audience how fantastic Doctor Who can be they made a rather odd editing choice and consequently I don’t think American TV audiences will be able to see what all the fuss is about. “Doctor Who? Isn’t that the show about the guy who thinks women are Christmas?”

Sitting in the room watching Matt Smith chat with Craig is an odd experience, especially when compared to the later interview they recorded the same day with Jeff Goldblum (which you can watch here, and then here). Matt still gives the impression of someone who still isn’t used to the idea of self-promotion, of sitting down and just being himself. It’s fascinating to watch, and it’ll be interested to compare to how he interviews in a few years’ time. Compare now, instead, to Jeff Goldblum and his comfort joking around with and even touching Craig. In fact Matt puts me in mind of my friend Chaz, who none of you know and so the comparison is lost on you. Huzzah!

The interview did yield at least one potentially interesting piece of news – at least it’s interesting to me, having not heard Matt Smith talk about it before: how long he intends to play the Doctor. Matt revealed that he was definitely doing another year of the show, and “maybe” another year after that. Is he stepping down? Are we going to lose the Eleventh Doctor at the end of series 6, or will he stay on for a seventh series? Or an eighth? Who knows! It’s all very exciting stuff.

Finally, after the show had finished filming, everybody in the audience got a free copy of Doctor Who series five on DVD for their troubles. Hoorah! Then Ray bought the four of us dinner at Chipotle. Hoorah! Then we went home and watched “Death of the Doctor” before falling asleep because both Helen and I’d only had three hours’ sleep the previous night. Hoorah!

That’s more or less it. Huge thanks to Ray and Michelle for getting us tickets, and to Bronwen for getting us great seats in the audience, and to Craig Ferguson for being one of the most unique and entertaining late night chat show hosts in the US, and certainly better than the tripe that appears on British telly. Against all reason (and certainly showing a disdain for ratings) he’s dedicated much of this entire week to Doctor Who and to British television as a whole. I can’t think of another chat show host in the States who would do that, and I can’t think of another network that would let him.

Ben Paddon certainly isn’t here to help a malevolent entity to bring down the website. Ben writes and hosts PortsCenter, a webseries about video game ports that exists solely because someone once asked him if Doom on the PSone was any good. His favourite colour is mope.


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