Shipping the 'Late Late Show' to London: 54 Staff, One Sofa, One Desk and One (Unused) Flinch Machine
The exec producers of 'The Late Late Show With James Corden' explain the logistics of relocating an entire talk show from CBS Television City to central London for three episodes.
When The Late Late Show With James Corden airs Monday night, there should be few noticeable signs — perhaps barring a brief mention of jetlag and some extra makeup under the host’s eyes — that the show has just recently returned from its most audacious adventure so far.
For three days last week, to coincide with its launch in the U.K. on Sky 1, the show skipped its L.A. digs at CBS Television City to relocate for three episodes to Westminster Central Hall, a giant church close to London's House of Parliament that has — as Corden was delighted to point out in his preshow warm-up — hosted the likes of Martin Luther King, Winston Churchill and Mahatma Gandhi.
“It was a huge upheaval,” admits executive producer Ben Winston, who says he and his colleagues were working with a whole new, U.K.-based team of lighting and camera operators. “When you usually start a show like this, you usually have five or six test shows. But the first time we were even in the venue with cameras was the day we made the first episode.”
With much of the technical team left in L.A., fellow executive producer Rob Crabbe says that a “skeleton crew” of around 54 flew across the Atlantic, working alongside London-based co-producer Fulwell 73 (of which Corden is now officially a partner).
“But we did bring the editors. We have to turn around the show in a relatively small window to feed it back to America to get it on in New York,” he says. “We needed people we have a real shorthand with.”
To get the show packaged and ready in time, Winston says they took over a floor of the Hall and moved over four edit suits and editors.
“Because they know what we do like, what we don’t,” he says. “But it’s not just for the show: we shot five or six packages, and the U.S. team are used to knowing how to cut a David Beckham sketch or Mary Poppins musical. You’ve only got two or three days to turn it around and if you’re working with a brand-new editor that’s an impossibility.”
Alongside the 54-strong team, there were a few essential additions on the long-haul flight from LAX.
“We actually shipped over the desk and the couch,” says Winston, who admits the show has a “spare” desk in case anything ever happens. “And we shipped over the Flinch machine in case we wanted to play Flinch.”
Sadly Flinch never made it into the U.K. programming, meaning one of the Late Late Show’s more elaborate pieces of equipment enjoyed two 11 hours flights and a week of luxury in Westminster Central Hall’s basement.
When the show’s producers originally started to come up with the idea of a London edition — which Londoner Corden admitted to THR was “always a dream” — the plan was to do something a little smaller and more location-based than an entire studio setting.
“We thought of doing one show from a pub, one show from James’ parents house and one show from a boat on the Thames, which would suit the house shows that we used to do,” says Winston. “But we realized that it’d had become bigger — it’s in 155 countries every night — and more of a variety show. So, therefore, if James is coming home to where he’s always been well-known and loved, we thought, actually, let’s go big on it. Let’s do a big entertainment show every night.”
While Sky 1’s arrival as the show’s U.K. TV home may have been the catalyst that persuaded CBS to give the green light to the London shows, the team is keen to return, despite a turnaround that has most back on a flight to L.A. the day after the final episode shoots.
“All of my family are here, so I’d love to do it once a year and come back for a week or two. We’ve really enjoyed it,” says Winston.
Adds Crabbe: “It’d be nice to meet our writers and other staff who said they’re moving to London because they love it here so much.”