Last week, the entertainment world was left reeling by David Letterman’s announcement on CBS’s The Late Show that he would be retiring from hosting duties for the show, which he has held since the program’s debut in 1993 over 20 years ago. Now insiders are claiming that longtime E! talk show host, Chelsea Handler, is currently in talks with CBS for a potential late-night talk show. Even more intriguing, a report from The Wrap believes that Chelsea Handler could one of the potential successors to Letterman himself for The Late Show.
Handler recently announced that she would be leaving E! and her longtime talk show, Chelsea Lately, when her current contract expires at the end of 2014. However, Handler isn’t interested in the idea of hosting a syndicated show, and now CBS is said to be considering offering Handler the 12:30 a.m. slot, currently held by Craig Ferguson on The Late Late Show. Handler will reportedly be meeting with Les Moonves, CBS Corp.’s chairman, in the coming weeks and apparently hash out a spot for her in the late-night lineup for CBS. But now, since Letterman will be leaving his current post, Handler is now said to be coveting the spot. A woman has not held a late-night hosting spot since Cynthia Garrett on Later on NBC from 2000-2001.
In addition, Handler is also considering offers for a weekly radio show on Sirius XM, a taped version of the former on Netflix (Netflix denied they were in talks with Handler), CNN, Headline News, and FX. However, the Letterman spot is what Handler is gunning for.
What might make things difficult is that Craig Ferguson has right of first refusal for the Letterman spot, but it’s a spot CBS may be unwilling to offer him. That reason is because Ferguson has been struggling as of late against Seth Meyers, who recently replaced Jimmy Fallon on Late Night on NBC.
While Handler has found incredible success with Chelsea Lately on E!, it’s hard to foresee her ever landing Letterman’s prime, coveted spot on The Late Show. While it could be true Handler is in negotiations with CBS for a late-night hosting gig, going from cable to a regular network is not as easy as it seems. For starters, there is the issue of ratings. In 2012, Chelsea lately reportedly had an average viewership of 613,000 viewers. In 2013, that number dropped 571,000. In 2013, Letterman reportedly averaged 2.8 million viewers on The Late Show. While having the marketing machine of CBS behind you definitely helps, Handler has yet to prove she can draw those types of numbers. Plus on network TV, there tends to be less patience if a show isn’t drawing the desired numbers. The other major issue is Handler’s brand of humor. Some major hosts have difficulty transitioning spots for late-night talk shows. Handler’s particular style might not be able to translate to The Late Show successfully.
That aside, no matter how you feel about Handler, she is incredibly successful and talented. In addition to having a successful show on E! she launched in 2007, she’s also a New York Times bestselling author. The challenge of transitioning to late-night talk show on CBS is definitely one she could very well be up for. If Handler is truly in negotiations with CBS for a late-night hosting job, how things pan out with Letterman’s spot remain to be seen.
By Jeffrey Harris
The Late Show with David Letterman