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James Corden was joined by plenty of familiar faces, including some notable surprise guests, as he said goodbye to CBS’ The Late Late Show after eight years as host.
Corden’s last night as host of the late night series began Thursday with a primetime special that was followed by the final episode itself. Among the previously announced highlights of the special were a segment in which Corden and Tom Cruise appeared as Timon and Pumbaa, respectively, in a live performance of The Lion King at Los Angeles’ Pantages Theatre, and a final “Carpool Karaoke” segment with the host’s close friend Adele.
Fittingly, Corden began the special with a musical number as he sang his own lyrics to the tune of Donna Summer’s “Last Dance.” Corden, who has announced that he and his family will leave L.A. to move back to London, sang such lines as, “Let’s blow CBS’ dough one last time / Go big or go home on my last day in the sunshine.”
During the bit with Cruise, who has previously made a number of prominent and often high-adrenaline appearances on the show, the pair surprised an L.A. audience by gracing the Lion King stage, first sharing a rhino costume and then performing “Hakuna Matata” as the memorable meerkat and warthog duo. After the performance, Corden and Cruise appeared to suffer a falling-out as Corden suggested that the actor would soon forget about him and find a different late night host to befriend.
“When Mission: Impossible 12 comes out, you’re not going to think of me,” Corden claimed. “You’re going to be off BASE jumping with Bowen Yang.” Ultimately, the pair patched things up with a duet of “Can You Feel the Love Tonight,” and as Corden thanked his guest for everything he’s done for the show, Cruise cut him off with, “Shut up. You had me at hello.”
For the final “Carpool Karaoke,” which has become one of the show’s signature bits, Adele awakened a sleeping Corden in his bedroom with a cymbal crash before they hit the road. For Adele’s second time participating in the segment, the stars performed her tunes “Rolling in the Deep,” “Love Is a Game,” “I Drink Wine” and “Hometown Glory,” in addition to Funny Girl’s “Don’t Rain on My Parade.”
During their car ride, they reminisced about previous vacations they’ve taken together, and Adele asked Corden what he’ll miss about hosting the program. “I’ll miss everything,” he replied. “I think I underestimated how many friends I’ve made doing it, and it’s like a family. More than anything, I’ll just miss going into work with my friends every day.”
He explained that it felt important for himself, his wife and their three children to be back in his native London. “It’s been a brilliant adventure, but I’m just so certain for us as a family, with people getting older and people that we miss, it’s time to go home,” Corden said.
One of the surprises on the final episode itself was a video message from President Joe Biden, who had previously appeared on-camera with Corden. Indeed, Biden referenced the pair having filmed a segment for last year’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner, in which the comedian attempted to land a White House gig.
“After a day spent working for me at the White House, I’m surprised you lasted eight years at any job,” Biden quipped with a laugh. “Thank you for all the joy you’ve brought to homes across America, and a special thanks for never asking me to sing in a car. I can’t sing worth a damn.”
Another pre-recorded segment featured a number of well-known late night hosts — Seth Meyers, Jimmy Kimmel, Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon and David Letterman — surprising Corden in his bedroom. The visitors wanted to make sure that Corden did not give away their secrets, including the fact that they don’t always watch the projects that the guests are promoting, and tried to convince him to stick around.
“James, have you thought this through?” Colbert asked. “What other job will allow you to break into song and dance every single night?” The segment then jumped ahead six months as Corden and fellow late night TV alum Trevor Noah were seen competing on The Masked Singer together.
The show’s previously announced guests were Harry Styles and Will Ferrell, who have both made numerous appearances over the years. Ferrell began his visit by smashing Corden’s desk with a sledgehammer. Later, when Styles was asked to name his personal Late Late Show highlights, he referenced a dodgeball bit by saying, “I got hit in the nuts by Michelle Obama.”
All three of them played a shortened version of “Spill Your Guts, or Fill Your Guts,” with Styles being asked if One Direction will ever reunite. The question led to a loud cheer from the audience, and although a surprise reunion didn’t materialize, Styles left the door open for the future. “I feel that it’s not a yes or no question,” the Grammy winner responded. “I would never say never to that. If there was a time where that was what we wanted to do, I don’t see why we wouldn’t.”
After Styles and Ferrell praised Corden’s run, the departing host delivered a final goodbye to viewers. “It’s been life-changing,” he said of his time as host. “All we’ve ever wanted is just be a little bit of light, of levity at the end of your day. Thank you for letting me do this.”
Corden’s final moment on the stage featured him performing a farewell song at the piano, and as The Hollywood Reporter observed during the taping, he needed to redo one line in the middle of the number because he was too emotional. The song included the reprise, “So good night / Thanks for watching / That’s our show.”
During a recent interview with THR, Late Late Show executive producers Ben Winston and Rob Crabbe reflected on the show’s highlights and missed opportunities — including a “Carpool Karaoke” with Beyoncé that never quite came together — and explained why an unknown host landing a late night show would be unlikely to happen again.
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