Same old Stephen Colbert debuts his CBS ‘Late Show’

Republican Presidential candidate Jeb Bush chats with Stephen on the premiere of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. JEFFREY R. STAAB/CBS
Republican Presidential candidate Jeb Bush chats with Stephen Colbert on the premiere of “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.” JEFFREY R. STAAB/CBS

So, it turns out that out-of-character Stephen Colbert is a lot like in-character Stephen Colbert. And I’m okay with that.

The comedian/actor debuted his version of the CBS “Late Show” Tuesday with a new house band from a revamped Ed Sullivan Theater, but there was no shortage of hints for fans of Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report” that they might want to stick around.

For starters, there was the set, familiar in its red, white and blue color scheme. The Captain America shield from his old show’s digs hung on the wall. And the host (oddly acting as his own announcer thought the night) was decked out in the colors himself. He addressed the audience as “nation,” a “Colbert Report” staple, and even referenced “Jimmy,” the control room presence from his old show when asking for an on-screen graphic to be removed.

While Colbert made every effort to retain his left-leaning “Report” viewers, the theme of “let’s all just get along” welcomed those of differing political persuasions who might have been tuning in out of curiosity.

The host began the show with a rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” taped in locales across the country. At the end of the opening, a little league umpire ripped off his mask to reveal he was none other than former Colbert boss (and the new show’s executive producer) Jon Stewart.

He treated his second guest, Jeb Bush (following George Clooney, whose film career was gently mocked in a series of “scenes” from the fictional movie,”Decision Strike”) fairly, generously allowing him to tick off talking points from his Republican Presidential campaign. Admitting that he and his own brother (in the audience) had differing political opinions but could still get along, Colbert asked Bush where he disagreed politically from his sibling, George W. Bush (not conservative enough, Jeb said).

The host ended the show with an all-star, conciliatory rendition of Sly and the Family Stone’s soul staple “Everyday People” featuring vocals by Mavis Staples:

I am no better and neither are you/We are the same, whatever we do.

Oh, sha sha … so subtle.

Other highlights:

  • A short, standing monologue in which the host introduced his house band, Jon Batiste and Stay Human, led him to his desk (carved, he said, “out of a single piece of desk”) where he mocked Donald Trump, devoured a bag of Oreo cookies and  — at the command of a demonic, Assyrian firedog amulet — hawked Sabra brand hummus.
  • Colbert gave Clooney a wedding gift — a paperweight engraved with the phrase, “I don’t know you.”
  • The host envisioned Donald Trump’s proposed border wall as series of Trump skyscrapers knocked over onto their sides.
  • Colbert gave a short but sincere thank you to former “Late Show” host David Letterman by way of Letterman’s beloved stage manager, Biff Henderson.
  • CBS honcho Les Moonves sat in the audience in front of a console that would, ostensibly, allow him to flip the broadcast feed over to a rerun of “The Mentalist” in case of trouble.
  • It was awfully sweet of Colbert’s first audience to greet him with a standing ovation and the familiar, “Stephen! Stephen!” chant.
  • The host thanked the audience for joining him in making “television history. And, like most history,” he said, “it’s not on the History Channel.”
  • The Alamo Drafthouse tweeted this about Clooney’s fictional thriller:

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Fox’s ‘MasterChef’ is looking for Austin home cooks

"MasterChef" judges Christina Tosi, left, Gordon Ramsay and Graham Elliot
“MasterChef” judges Christina Tosi, left, Gordon Ramsay and Graham Elliot

As the current season of Fox’s reality competition “MasterChef” rolls on, producers are already planning for Season 7. They’ll be landing in 11 cities looking for talented home cooks to compete against each other for a prize of $250,000, their own cookbook, and a “MasterChef” trophy.

Think what you’ve got to impress judges Gordon, Graham and Christina? Austin auditions are slated for Aug. 29. No location has been revealed, but the most current audition information can be found on the show’s casting website.

Here’s the complete list of audition cities and dates:

San Diego, Calif. Saturday, Aug. 15
Minneapolis, Minn. Saturday, Aug. 15
Las Vegas, Nev. Saturday, Aug. 22
Detroit, Mich. Saturday, Aug. 22
Austin, Tex. Saturday, Aug. 29
San Francisco, Calif. Saturday, Aug. 29
Chicago, Ill. Saturday, Sep. 26
Louisville, Ken. Saturday, Sep. 26
Jackson, Miss. Saturday, Oct. 3
New York City, Saturday, Oct. 3
Los Angeles, Calif. Saturday, Oct. 10

Austin (hearts) ‘Gilmore Girls’ ATX TV Fest reunion

A large portion of the cast from the TV series "Gilmore Girls" were part of a reunion panel Saturday night as part of the ATX Television Festival on June 7. Credit: Omar L. Gallaga / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
A large portion of the cast from the TV series “Gilmore Girls” were part of a reunion panel Saturday night as part of the ATX Television Festival on June 7. Credit: Omar L. Gallaga / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

For one Saturday night only, the Paramount Theatre in downtown Austin became the warm, fictional town of Stars Hollow as rabid fans of the departed WB series “Gilmore Girls” saw a rare reunion of the show’s cast and its creator.

The series, which ran from 2000-2007, was never a gigantic ratings hit or an Emmy award contender, but its stature in the TV industry has grown since it left the air as Netflix, DVDs sales and syndication have given it more waves of attention and new generations of viewers.

Saturday night’s reunion, which was the most high-profile event of the fourth-annual ATX Television Festival, drew a sold-out crowd to the venue and a flurry of activity on social media as fans of the show awaited word — any word — that “Gilmore Girls” might return as a new set of TV episodes (Netflix!?) or a movie. Crazier things have happened. “Full House” and “Twin Peaks” are both returning with new episodes in the near future.

Alas, show creator Amy Sherman-Palladino, who left the series before its controversial (and frankly not that great) final season, did not have any news to break at the reunion, which included stars Lauren Graham, Alexis Bledel, Kelly Bishop, Scott Patterson and 12 others.

“There’s nothing in the works at the moment,” Sherman-Palladino said, although she left the door open by saying that everyone on stage gets along great and would probably be open to a return to the show’s Stars Hollow setting. (That said, it didn’t sound like there was any kind of script being written and if a deal is being worked on, it wasn’t mentioned.) “If it ever happened, I promise we’d do it correctly,” Sherman-Palladino added.

Apart from pining for new content, fans seemed most interested in hearing about the relationships between the characters on the show, what they might be doing today (Miss Patty would be mayor, Luke would be running a bait and tackle shop, Lane Kim would be trying to be more of a Lorelai mom than a Mrs. Kim mom) and what some of their favorite moments on the show were. The show’s stars and creators received a warm tongue bath of attention with fans cheering about lines from 10 years ago that even the actors didn’t remembers and greeting the cast as if they were long-lost family members just returned after an extended departure.

Three stars conspicuously missing from the event: Melissa McCarthy, who has become a huge comedy star and who was not mentioned; Sean Gunn, who is filming a movie overseas and couldn’t make it; and, most notably, Edward Herrmann, who played Rory’s grandfather Richard Gilmore on the show.

Herrmann died on Dec. 31, 2014 and his absence was marked with an empty chair on stage, a beautifully put-together video collection of some of his “Gilmore Girls” work and the revelation from Sherman-Palladino that he was the first of the stars to agree to do the reunion.

“(Expletive) him for dying,” she said, in the nicest, most heartfelt way possible.

The reunion was preceded by a sweaty red carpet in the Texas heat and an after party at Cedar Door where cast members took photos with fans, signed autographs and caught up on new projects.

The large cast of townies from “Gilmore Girls” have gone on to success on many other TV shows including “Parenthood,” “Mad Men,” “Supernatural,” “Empire” and “Justified.”

Sherman-Palladino went on to create “Bunheads,” a beloved, but short-lived show on ABC Family that was also honored with a screening at the festival.

If there were hard feelings about the way the show ended, Sherman-Palladino deflected them with her trademark wit. She said when the show ended, she spent the night yelling at her husband Dan (who co-created and worked on the show) and when asked about statements she’s made about how she would have ended the show, she declined to reveal the four words she’s said would have been said.

Instead, she warmly remembered how great an experience the show had been and how much she enjoyed its cast.

“God, I got so lucky,” she said.

(Left to right) Amy Sherman-Palladino, creator of "Gilmore Girl" and cast members Lauren Graham, Alexis Bledel and Kelly Bishop appear at the Paramount Theatre as part of an ATX Television Festival reunion of the show. Credit: Omar L. Gallaga / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
(Left to right) Amy Sherman-Palladino, creator of “Gilmore Girls” and cast members Lauren Graham, Alexis Bledel and Kelly Bishop appear at the Paramount Theatre as part of an ATX Television Festival reunion of the show. Credit: Omar L. Gallaga / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

TV drama showrunners at ATX TV Fest agree: make a good show first

(Left to right)
(Left to right) Noah Hawley (“Fargo”), Beau Willimon (“House of Cards”), Mickey Fisher (“Extant”), Graeme Manson (“Orphan Black”) and panel moderator Tim Goodman of The Hollywood Reporter.

If it feels like your favorite on-hiatus TV drama is taking forever to return for a new season, it’s not because the creator/showrunners are wasting time, that’s for sure.

That was the key takeaway from a Saturday afternoon panel, “UnSeasonably: A Look at Breaking the Traditional TV Season,” at the ATX Television Festival featuring showrunners from FX’s “Fargo” (Noah Hawley), “House of Cards” (Beau Willimon), CBS’s “Extant” (Mickey Fisher) and BBC America’s “Orphan Black” (Graeme Manson).

The panel, moderated by Hollywood Reporter’s Tim Goodman, got off to an unfortunate start when he noted the panel was “Very diverse” (in terms of network outlets), a strange thing to say on a stage where five white men were holding court.

Nevertheless, the panel got back on track on issues such as how writer/creators maintain quality on their respective shows, how they keep audiences interested in the long breaks between seasons (for “Fargo,” for instance, fans will have waited about 18 months before the second season premiere) and whether extra web-only content is worth the hassle.

All seemed concerned about the glut of quality shows and the limited time their audiences have to enjoy all the great shows available (“We’re gonna need a bigger DVR, right?” Hawley said), but insisted that the best use of their time is not social media or extra content but focusing on making their shows stand out in the crowd.

“(Fans) will crawl over broken glass to watch something they love on this age,” Hawley said.

Willimon of “House of Cards” said that TV fans are hoping for instant gratification with their favorite TV shows, but that no matter how you do it, it still takes about a year to put together a quality season of television, though the formats are breaking down to allow for non-traditional TV seasons with varying episode lengths.

They all agreed that good shows can still follow the lead of “Breaking Bad” by being discovered by fans into their second or third season with online streaming and word of mouth.

But the challenge of making a great show consistently is so great that the thought of making extra content is worrisome, especially for dramas (which aren’t as viral online as short-form TV comedy). Manson said that a new “Orphan Black” comic has been a tough challenge because it requires extra attention and is always in danger of stepping on the show’s toes.

It’s a similar challenge when it comes to marketing — Willimon handles a lot of “House of Cards” marketing tasks himself (such as writing the Netflix episode descriptions), but ultimately, the most attention must be paid on the show itself.

“You don’t want to put anything out that’s not as good as the show itself,” he said. “And you want to focus on the main course.”

‘Gilmore Girls’ cast to reunite tonight at Paramount Theater

Lauren Graham as Lorelai Gilmore, Alexis Bledel as Rory Gilmore Photo Credit: © The WB/Andrew Macpherson
Lauren Graham as Lorelai Gilmore, Alexis Bledel as Rory Gilmore Photo Credit: © The WB/Andrew Macpherson

The gang from ‘Gilmore Girls’ will be headlining the ATX Television Festival tonight at the Paramount Theater.

Lauren Graham, Alexis Bledel, and show creator Amy Sherman-Palladino, as well as many others, have all confirmed attendance at the panel, which will be hosted by Entertainment Weekly. This reunion follows a surprise show by Stars Hollow staple Hep Alien last night at the Hotel San Jose. Alien’s set included covers of songs by the White Stripes and a performance of Beyoncé’s ‘Single Ladies.’

While tonight’s IRL reunion is exciting to say the least, Scott Patterson, better known as Luke Danes on the show, told Time last month that an on-screen reunion might also be in the works. “I can’t really go into any details, but there is some activity. I’m hopeful, and I’m in,” Patterson said.

So now the question becomes – will we finally be getting that rumored Gilmore Girls movie? We’re long overdue for a Luke and Lorelai wedding.