James Corden's 'Late Late Show' Debut: What the Critics Are Saying

Miller Mobley
James Corden

The Brit took over the CBS show from Craig Ferguson with guidance from Jay Leno, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Shia LaBeouf and Meryl Streep. Tom Hanks and Mila Kunis were the show's first guests.

James Corden took over CBS' The Late Late Show from Craig Ferguson on Monday night — apparently instead of Chris Rock, Eddie Redmayne, Billy Crystal, Lena Dunham, Simon CowellKatie Couric or Chelsea Handler — with guidance from Jay Leno, Allison Janney, Shia LaBeouf, Meryl Streep and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The actor of Into the Woods, The Wrong Mans and Gavin & Stacey fame was welcomed by guests Tom Hanks and Mila Kunis and, like fellow U.K. host Graham Norton and early American late-night hosts like Johnny Carson, Corden interviewed the actors at the same time (with Kunis confirming that she and Ashton Kutcher secretly had tied the knot). Hanks also re-enacted a slew of his films with Corden, who later closed the show with a piano ballad about his experience.

See what top critics are saying about Corden's Late Late Show debut.

In a piece detailing his first reactions to the late-night host's introductory episode (not as a review), The Hollywood Reporter's Tim Goodman noted, "He’s different. The glaring difference is that he comes without almost any snark, which is a modern American late-night talk show host must-have quality that was only recently spurned by Jimmy Fallon. Corden doesn’t put a layer of cool between him and the viewer (or his guests) — he’s as affable and sincere as Fallon with just a little less goofiness. It’s a welcome trait, one that should put guests at ease." Of the simultaneous interview style: "It sure seems different in the current climate" and "the whole thing felt only slightly stilted. Eventually, the goal will be to get a dinner-party or cocktail-party vibe on that couch, and it’s not out of the realm of possibility to imagine it because Corden has a very welcoming sense to him. ... The trick will come later, when other such pairings maybe don’t work so well, and Corden will either have to herd the cats or make fun of the whole thing as it’s going completely sideways. Either way, it does make you want to watch again."

Added Goodman: "Band leader Reggie Watts was an exceptional 'get' for Corden, and it’s apparent that he could be a real character and asset to the show well beyond his musical brilliance (a la The Roots on Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show)" and "Corden’s introduction — in place of a traditional monologue — was also precisely what was called for," followed by the strong star-studded sketch and career-spanning bit with Hanks. "The studio did seem to have strangely low ceilings, which gave it a cramped feel, but all of that can be tweaked via camera location. ... As first nights go, this was a winner for Corden."

The Guardian's Brian Moylan said, "Corden proved himself to be very deserving of the role and, actually, tremendously charming indeed." Regarding the cameos: "It seems like CBS called in every favor it was ever owed just to make this video. However, it was funny and winning and showed that Corden was willing to make fun of himself and the audience’s doubts about him. Better to make the jokes about himself before the rest of us can make them for him." About the shifted seating and hosting multiple guests at a time: "I will give Corden credit for monkeying with talk-show conventions, something that most other hosts have been either too scared or uninspired to do, but something about the changes he made seems a little bit off. ... The guests didn’t know where they were sitting and both remarked on the change. Kunis’ hair person obviously wasn’t ready for this switcheroo, because her hair was parted so that it was obscuring her face for a fair bit of the show. ... Having both guests out simultaneously could be a good hook for Corden’s show, but he needs to work better at fostering a conversation between the guests rather than talking to them both individually and hoping that chemistry will happen just by the magic of proximity."

USA Today's Robert Bianco explain that Corden is "a smart, funny, enormously gifted writer and performer who comes across as genuine and likable, and someone who projects humility and a genuine sweetness without projecting a lack of confidence." His bits were "fun," sandwiching the interview. "That's a lot of 'new' happening at once, and this first-night attempt to carry on a three-way conversation did come across as a bit forced and awkward — though to be fair, it also produced something of a scoop, as Hanks prompted Kunis to admit she and Kutcher are married. Still, if the gimmick didn't exactly go smoothly, it still seems worth trying, and it may work better once guests become more used to the format and Corden becomes more comfortable with his role. And he will become more comfortable. Talk-show hosts are almost always visibly jittery and overly chatty in their debut, and Corden was no exception. He fidgeted a bit too much and laughed a bit too raucously, which is what nerves will do to you. Yet when he ended his show by thanking viewers for their time and asking them to return, it felt real. And real on TV is terribly rare. If for no other reason than that, you should wish Corden the best."

New York Daily News' David Hinckley wrote that Corden "slipped easily into the chair vacated last December by Ferguson. His easygoing manner fit well with his low-key banter, built more on everyday conversation than show biz flash. ... His feature interview produced standard late-night banter, helped by the fact both Kunis and Hanks are as skilled as Corden at this routine. An extended sketch in which Corden and Hanks joined for a manic medley of riffs on Hanks' movies was a bit too extended. ... The better extended sketch was the first one, wherein an impressive gallery of stars pitched in for a short film purporting to show how Corden got the gig. ... Judging from his first show, which isn't always the wisest thing to do, Corden seems to be from the school that feels it's better to close the day with a good glass of wine than tequila shots."