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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Bikinis owner criticized after ‘Undercover Boss’ appearance

Doug Guller
Doug Guller

The founder of the Austin-based Bikinis Sports Bar and Grill chain is catching all kinds of heat on social media after an appearance last night on the CBS network’s “Undercover Boss.”

In the episode, Doug Guller posed as an entry-level employee, working at five Bikinis locations scattered across Texas — three in the Dallas area, one in San Antonio and the original location near Highland Mall in North Austin.

Preliminary figures show more than 9 million households tuned in nationwide, according to TV By the Numbers.

At the end of the episode, Guller revealed his true identity to workers at the restaurants — and that’s when the drama kicked into high gear.

Guller, who started Bikinis about nine years ago, is being criticized by viewers for firing an employee who had declined to wear a bikini top and for offering to pay for breast augmentation for a different worker, among other things.

(To be fair, the “breastaurant” owner — Guller trademarked the term in 2013 — also gave one employee a 30 percent raise and $10,000 for a family vacation and offered to help another worker with housing and medical expenses for her ill child.)

But the firing and the offer of free breast enhancement surgery, in particular, rubbed many the wrong way. Jezebel, for instance, said “Undercover Boss” had “stooped to depressing new lows.”

“This was a bad episode unleashing a bunch of unchecked (expletive) on a viewing audience that (judging by fans’ reactions on Twitter) didn’t want it. If there’s a silver lining, it’s that this level of blatant sexism no longer seems widely appreciated,” the Jezebel piece said, in part.

Guller hasn’t responded to the criticism yet. In a Tweet shortly after the broadcast, he thanked the show and told his employees, “Y’all rock.”

Bikinis owner Doug Guller featured on ‘Undercover Boss’

Doug Guller
Doug Guller

Look for Doug Guller, founder of the locally based Bikinis Sports Bar and Grill chain, later this month on CBS’s “Undercover Boss.”

The episode will air Dec. 28.

Producers first contacted Guller about a year ago, he said. In October, they filmed at five different Bikinis locations – three in the Dallas area, one in San Antonio and one in North Austin, near Highland Mall.

At each location, Guller posed as an entry-level employee, with cameras rolling as he interacted with customers and co-workers. To avoid being recognized, he wore an elaborate disguise that included a wig, earrings, goatee and even eyeliner.

“It was a great opportunity to see what the team goes through behind the scenes,” Guller said. “I got to see just how hard their jobs really are.”

Most of the experiences were positive, Guller said, but it wouldn’t be reality TV without a little bit of drama. In the end, though, he said he’s happy with how things turned out – and he thinks you will be, too.

“It wraps up with what was, for me, a really heartfelt experience,” he said. “I think that’s what the people who watch will get out of it, too.”

Guller’s company, ATX Brands, also owns a number of other bars and restaurants, including The Parish, Scoot Inn, Pelons, Chicago House, Zorro and 508 Tequila Bar. A lot of projects are in the works right now – and that’ll continue well into 2015, Guller said, including the rollout of Gino’s East pizzerias in Austin and elsewhere across the state.

Together, the various ATX Brands businesses employ about 500 people.

“There’s a lot that goes into running a successful company,” Guller said. “We’ve got great people who are working hard to make things happen.”


‘Undercover Boss’

7:30 p.m. Dec. 28

CBS, KEYE Channel 42