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In Defense Of: Craig Kilborn

by Bob Sassone, posted Jul 1st 2010 2:00PM
Craig KilbornIt's too early to tell if Craig Kilborn's new daily show, 'The Kilborn File,' will be a success or not. Right now, three episodes in, the ratings aren't good, but the quality isn't bad. While it is certainly experiencing some new show pains -- glitches, segments that just don't work, so-so guests -- it has a lot of potential to be as good as Kilborn's "Late, Late Show' was before the other Craig took over.

Some of you reading the words "to be as good as Kilborn's 'Late, Late Show' are probably scratching your heads because you thought that show was terrible. Simply put, if you don't like Kilborn, you won't like 'The Kilborn File.'

Even if you don't like Letterman or Leno or Kimmel, at least there are bands and musical guests and stand-up comics to entertain you. But 'The Kilborn File' (which airs anywhere from 6-10PM ET in major markets) is completely centered around Kilborn, and if you can't stand him, you're watching 'Friends' reruns or 'Entertainment Tonight' instead.

Craig KilbornBut you know what? While Kilborn is an acquired taste, I think he might be one of the more underrated talk show hosts in television history.

Kilborn is smug, sarcastic, probably likes the sounds of his voice too much and isn't always fully engaged with the people he is interviewing. I have to point out here that I think these are positive traits, not shortcomings. He's doing his own thing, and I appreciate that.

Kilborn is not another cookie-cutter host, one who is going to come out and do a monologue, then go to a commercial, then come back and do a sketch, then interview two celebrities and then have a band play a song. Kilborn's talk shows are talk shows as sort of performance art. Kilborn controls everything and the camera is almost always on him. This would be disastrous with most hosts (and most hosts wouldn't even welcome it), but Kilborn is in complete control. Maybe it was all those years as an anchor on 'SportsCenter' and 'The Daily Show.'

Kilborn hosted the Comedy Central show before Jon Stewart took over, and it was a completely different animal when he hosted it -- something pretty close to what 'The Kilborn File' is. And it suddenly occurred to me while watching the show tonight that we need something like this on TV every single day. Something that riffs on the headlines of the day, "Weekend Update" style, and give a lighter take on celebrities, politics, and media than you'll find on 'The Daily Show' or 'The Colbert Report.' Something that has celebrities and celebrity news but won't kill your brain cells like the tabloid shows. Something that has politics but is hosted by someone who probably doesn't give a crap about politics.

I've heard a lot of people say to me over the years that they can't watch Kilborn because of the traits listed above, but I've never really understood the criticism. While Kilborn certainly has a rather confident air about him, he has always struck me as a normal person who just doesn't play the Hollywood game (unless he wants to). From the guests he has the references he makes, he's actually old school, and has been since long before 'Old School.' He's a throwback to the Hollywood of yesteryear, more Merv Griffin and Steve Allen than Carson Daly. He's someone who actually has Hollywood parties and invites friends over for martinis and parlor games and cigars (Griffin used to play the piano at these parties). Someone who sees life as something fun and not a chore, one of the reasons he actually left his talk show when things were going really well, a decision no one understood.

Isn't that the type of talk show host you'd like to watch?

'The Kilborn File' is getting a six week tryout this summer. If it gets good enough ratings, it will be back in the fall. The early episodes haven't lured in viewers yet, but I really hope that changes, or Fox says the heck with it and sees the potential for a different kind of talk show on TV every day and gives it a chance anyway. While you could say that Kilborn is an acquired taste, that's actually something we need on TV, more acquired tastes. Nobody does the Kilborn thing better than Kilborn, and the people who like him understand.

So tonight while you're watching 'Access Hollywood' or 'Extra' or 'Two and a Half Men' reruns, I'll be watching Craiggers. Who knows, maybe it will only last for this six week run, but for those six weeks I'm going to dance, Dance, DANCE.

Will you give Craig Kilborn a chance?
Yes, actually, I've always liked him251 (77.5%)
Hell no! How'd he get another TV show?73 (22.5%)

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Oh, please. Jon Stewart and Craig Ferguson have more talent in their toes than Craig Kilborn does in his entire body. As a "Daily Show" fan, I'm sure I'd be interested to see what it was like under his reign, and I'm sure he was funny in his own way. But I've seen clips of his tenure at TLLS and checked out bits from his current show, and it's just... gaah.

July 06 2010 at 10:31 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

So glad to have Craig back on the air. Fox would be smart to extend this show. Who knows, this could eventually bring him back to late night in the spot that Fox wanted to give Conan.

July 02 2010 at 8:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jessica Hammer

I love Craig Kilborn
1. Beacuse he is not political but funny. Its too much politics nowadays on TV
2. He is enlighting, he is like gulp of water in dessert, like fresh air in crowded room
3. He is sarcatistic but not as Letterman or Stewart, he has a lighter humor
4. He is quite good looking- that's important for presenter on TV
5. He is a good actor- I like to watch his face expressions
6. He is old school
7. I simply like to watch him
I was obcessed with his Late Late Night show
8. I would pay 50 bucks to watch him on TV or Internet

July 02 2010 at 5:39 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
John From Raleigh

I have watched a few shows via downloads from torrent sites and I Love the new show. It is great to have him back on the air. I don't know why Fox is not showing "The Kilborn File" via an online site. Since they didn't get Coco, Craig seems like a great show to run with.

Best of luck Craig, and if Fox doesn't pick you up please try a YouTube show ala "The Young Turks". I pay $10 a month to watch it and I would pay $10 for The Kilborn File.

July 01 2010 at 8:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Wait, Kilborn has a new show?

I loved him on the Daily Show. I hated him on his own show. I'll be curious to see how this does. The Daily Show worked well with him because his smugness was constantly mocked by everyone around him. The joke was he thought he was awesome and no one else did.
They lost that on his own show, where he still acted like he thought he was awesome but no one was there to put him in his place.

July 01 2010 at 8:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

"Kilborn is smug, sarcastic, probably likes the sounds of his voice too much and isn't always fully engaged with the people he is interviewing. I have to point out here that I think these are positive traits, not shortcomings. He's doing his own thing, and I appreciate that."
While I can appreciate that Kilborn may be an acquired taste, I think the very "strengths" that you mention make him a poor talk show host. His successors, Jon Stewart and Craig Ferguson are vastly superior and still manage not to fall into the cookie cutter talk show host format.

July 01 2010 at 5:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Could you add an option for "I don't think my affiliate is running it at all"? I tried to find it last night to no avail.

July 01 2010 at 3:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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