Friday, 20 April 2012

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I pondered what to post today... and after spending most of the evening catching up with The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson, I thought to post one of his musical openings.

I just didn't know which one. They're all awesome in their own different ways.

I was going to go with the most recent Halloween vid: "There's a Light Over At The Frankenstein House" but then I started watching the "Monster Mash" vid from the year before...

And then I realised there was one musical intro which summed up what I love about LLS/CraigyFerg.

The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson Cold Open (with some explanation) Doctor Who

So, let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up.

If you don't know, Craig Ferguson is a Scots-born comedian/writer/actor/awesome dude who via a series of strange life-turns now hosts the chat show immediately following Letterman. This means he broadcasts at half past midnight and gets to be rather more subversive, brilliant and intelligent than if he was on when Puritanical America is watching. He really screws with the format even as he takes part in it. The joke is that there's no budget so that it's done on the cheap: he doesn't have a band or a real life sidekick. he does have a gay robot skeleton sidekick called Geoffrey Peterson (voiced magnificently by Josh Robert Thompson) who is far superior to most living, breathing people on TV.

He also has puppets. But not just any puppets. There were Kronos, King of the Monkey People from another planet and Gustave Flaubert, a pig with sideburns and a contempt for the bourgeoisie, which haven't been seen in ages; Then there was the stonkingly awesome Wavey, a crocodilio from Louisiana with a (seriously dodgy) Cajun accent and penchant for waving. And eating people. He actually hosted the 1000th show. My personal favourite is Sid, the foul-mouthed rabbit from Norf London. You can guess why.

CraigyFerg is an incredibly sharp, quick-witted auto-didact. He also appears to be an astonishingly (especially for Late Night US TV) open-minded, decent human being. In the email segment once someone wrote in to say her boyfriend thought Craig was gay, she didn't... I expected Craig, because I've seen a lot of TV, to make a snidey gay joke or be horrified. I hadn't seen much of his show at that point... and instead he basically looked into the camera and said "And what if I was?" Many of you have heard me use the phrase "Love all the People" as my motto for existence. Coincidentally (or maybe we're both Hicks fans?), he will say the exact same thing when difficult stuff comes up.

Did I mention he does a monologue at the start of each show? Every weeknight he stands there and does what's basically 10 minutes of stand-up. Every night, something new (or the same tired old LLS/CF crap, as he would say)... there aren't many who could do that and make you laugh. But sure, some nights are funnier than others. And I would love him to get over the Kardashian jokes soon, and there's no need to do tired old fat jokes...but he's awesome more often than he's not. He gets what Late Night is. When the Late Night Wars (Leno/O'Brien Edition) exploded, Craig stood there on his show and said "It's a bunch of rich white men fighting over who gets millions of dollars." He refers to himself as a Late Night Douche. Like I say, he's fucking with the format from within.

Weirdly, Geoff the Robot was supposed to be and started as a subversion of the sidekick thing: he just had a few pre-programmed phrases ("In Your Pants" and "Balls" spring immediately to mind) but it became so funny that they got JRM to voice him live most nights. He still is a subversion I suppose, but not in the way they initially expected.

I was going to tell you why I love today's video so much but I got distracted. Craig is also a ginormous geek and has a great love of Doctor Who but until very very recently, most American audiences knew about as much as British ones do about LLS/CF (naff all, in other words) so he would have to explain it and its success. Which you have to admit is a bit of a tough call. Like explaining the success of Rod Hull and Emu to outsiders...

"Well, there's this 900 year old space-dude alien who travels around in a Police Box [pause to explain Police Box] with various companions going to other planets [pause to explain quarry in Wales] and battling evil aliens and stuff and he can travel in time. And when he dies he regenerates into a new body. And it's really scary. But made with tin cans and plungers. Since 1963."

So when he got Matt Smith on the show, presumably as part of BBC America's BIG MASSIVE GINORMOUS promotion of DW in the US, he did a cold open with a song explaining Doctor Who to American audiences. And then couldn't get rights to the Orbital version of the theme tune so showed it without the music.

And then the version including the music leaked online. Shock and surprise, right? So finally Craig got to show the opening as God Craig intended, and that's what's linked above.

I love the song because it does a great job of explaining DW to the uninitiated and is kinda beautiful in a strange way.

It also involves the phrase 'the alligator speaks the truth"... which is perfect for the inevitable stoner portion of his audience.

But the great moment is this: "It's all about the triumph of intellect and romance over brute force and cynicism."

And that is what the Doctor is about. It's certainly why I love DW so much even when it's full of fail, because it's still less fail-worthy than most. In a way, it's also a pretty good summation of Craig's own show. He starts every show (post-credits) with the greeting 'It's a great day for America!' or some variation thereon. Written down it sounds like the kind of hokey shite that American TV is full of. It's really not. It's a moment of optimism, genuine affection for his adopted country and a glimmer of 'Yeah, life's shite but hey, it is a great day for us. This is a guy who drops references to Flaubert and Kierkegaard into his monologues, for all the Kardashian jokes and references to balls. I love how he screws with the censor, too. This is a show which features a cussing cockney rabbit puppet but also had Desmond Tutu as a guest. It gives me a little hope that entertainment is not totally screwed, that we as a human race are not totally screwed.

I'd recommend the Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson to you all. And I do. If it's not your bag, that's cool. Because after all, Love All the People, dif'rent strokes for dif'rent folks.


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