Colbert Moves Into Letterman's Coveted Late Night Spot

CBS announced Thursday that the spot held by David Letterman for 21 years will go to Stephen Colbert.

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DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

Now for a quick note in my role as TV critic. The future of the late night TV landscape shifted again suddenly yesterday. One week ago, David Letterman surprised his viewers and everyone else by announcing his impending retirement from the CBS "Late Show" in 2015. Yesterday, news broke that CBS has chosen Letterman's replacement, Stephen Colbert, long-time host of Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report."

News spread early enough for late night hosts to mention it in last night's shows. On NBC, Jimmy Fallon welcomed Colbert to the broadcast side of the fence. And remember, Colbert had shown up on Fallon's first night of "The Tonight Show" dumping $100 worth of pennies on him and screaming welcome to 11:30, bitch. Jon Stewart on Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" showed old clips of Colbert from when he was one of that show's correspondents.

They very fondly praised Colbert as a worthy successor to Letterman in both humor and intelligence. I couldn't agree more. And Colbert himself demonstrated both of those attributes beautifully on last night's "Colbert Report." He saluted David Letterman sincerely and cleverly, then alluded to the changing of the guard without announcing it. It was obvious, though, his studio audience already knew.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE COLBERT REPORT")

STEPHEN COLBERT: Dave has been on the air my entire adult life. "Late Night" debuted my first year in college. I learned more from watching Dave than I did from going to my classes.

Especially the ones I did not go to because I had stayed up till 1:30 watching Dave.

This man has influenced every host who came after him and even a few who came before him. He's that good. And I've got to tell you, I do not envy whoever they try to put in that chair.

BIANCULLI: Stephen Colbert already has confirmed that he'll be hosting the show as himself, not in the guise of his conservative "Colbert Report" persona. That won't happen until next year but for fans of both Colbert and Letterman, it means we'll be treated to a long stretch of farewell tour shows. That's good news. And so is the fact that Letterman's seat is ending up in very worthwhile and capable hands. I'm David Bianculli and this is FRESH AIR.

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