Game Changer: Take a ride with Cee Lo Green as he takes us on a journey to a weird and widely entertaining new musical talk show….

Jul 21, 2011 by

One night last week, while channel surfing for nothing interesting to watch, I stumbled across Cee Lo Green’s new musical based talk show, Cee Lo Green Talking with Strangers, 1 and was instantly intrigued.  I came to the conclusion that this is what should/could be the correct formula for future late night talk show formats.

If you are like me, and grew up watching late night talk shows in the 80’s and 90’s, 2 the format has been fairly consistent, going back as far as the early days of the Carson led Tonight Show.   Jimmy Kimmel was on the right track with an open bar3 for his audience, and no opening monologue, but eventually had to succumb to network demands.

I often wonder why network executives are scared shitless to alter the current format.  I can’t bear to watch these programs anymore.  Even Conan and his beard can’t convince me to tune in.  He can shamelessly promote his show with endless ads on TBS, but I am not watching.  So when Cee Lo was belting out his hit song Crazy at the opening of his show last week, something stopped me from continuing my endless, and usually fruitless, search for anything remotely interesting.

Cee Lo is both original and unoriginal.  His appeal is vast amongst the American public.  He caters to the always soulless music competition program viewing demographic (Unoriginal) and to music geeks digging the psychedelic funk stained  grooves on the latter half of The Odd Couple. (Original)  Is his new show inventive? 4  No, not exactly, but what struck a chord with me was the vibe of the program.  The eccentric singer orchestrates a loose almost carefree show ambiance.  Plus, the elements of subtle awkward and strange moments always keep the audience tuned in, or at least it kept me glued.

His first two shows featured the guests, Keri Hilson5 and the awful pop group Train.  Future guests include TV on the Radio, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, the Foo-Fighters, and Kelly Rowland.

Here is what I witnessed during the first two episodes I caught:

  • Cee Lo actually made it possible for me to withstand an interview with Train.6
  • He is genuinely not interested in the answers to his questions.  That appeals to me because I am usually not interested in what dribble sprouts from the mouths of pop stars.  Plus, he occasionally just giggles to himself throughout the interview.7  While he giggles (about God knows what), the camera pans to the guest awkwardly dealing with the moment.
  • He has an all female backing band.
  • A Cee Lo puppet is prominently featured throughout the show.
  • Can you put a label or even comprehend Cee Lo’s wardrobe styles?  Let’s leave that up to the editors of GQ magazine to decipher.  Cee Lo can be spotted wearing late 80’s styled Beastie Boy sweat suit, peach-colored linen shirt with scarf, a plain white-t, or just your typical everyday wear-a bright orange and yellow African Garb that was last don by Prince Akeem in the film Coming to America.  Shine on you crazy diamond.
  • Right before a commercial break and before each segment Cee Lo, the music guest, and the Cee Lo puppet are gathered somewhere in the studio doing, well, I am not sure what.
  • Cee Lo is more candid with female guests than Letterman8 wishes he could be.  He unabashedly hits on the female guests.  I believe they are even charmed by his advances. I guess we shouldn’t expect anything less from the notorious “Lady Killer”. (That is the name of his current album, take a collective breath and continue on)
  • Cee Lo does not sit behind a desk; members of Gnarls Barkley are not desk people.  Cee Lo lounges in, what appears to be, an extremely comfortable chair.  I don’t even know how he can climb out of it.  His feet barely touch the ground: it’s like he’s gearing up for a nap with each passing moment of the interview.
  • I was expecting the SNL skit “What up with that” to break out at any moment with Cee Lo reprising the role of the SNL character played by the Good Burger guy.  I was also envisioning the Cee Lo puppet somewhere in the background demonstrating his puppet dance moves.
  • The Barry White like voiced show announcer, states something insignificant before the break that never occurs upon return.
  • No way Cee Lo prepares or even puts any thought in about the show.  His ultra coolness is all that needs to be on display and he feels no pressure due to it being on the Fuse Network.

Let’s examine/compare why a typical late night talk show format remains stagnate versus the freshness of the Cee Lo circus.

Length:

Cee Lo Talking with Strangers: Half hour-Anymore would be unnecessary.  It’s like taking a stroll down Venice Beach.  You glance at the strange person holding his pet iguana, but rapidly move on as you process what you just viewed.  If you stand around for too long, you’ll soon have two new friends you didn’t bargain for.

Typical late night talk show: One hour that feels like two.  The average American adult has the attention span of a three-year old.  There is no way networks can continue with the one hour format, I would even wager that most Americans turn off SNL after Weekend Update concludes. (Weekend Update finishes up right around 12:00 AM, this should attest that a half hour is all the viewer can muster.)

Host:

Cee Lo Talking with Strangers: Cee Lo of course.  Playing the role of co-host, his puppet?

Typical late night talk show: Former weatherman, comedy writer, comic, actor, Irish guy, or a Karl Malone impersonator.

The Always important First Guest:

Cee Lo Talking with Strangers: A relevant musical artist or group.  Cee Lo is about the music, no blathering from Tom Hanks or Julie Roberts on his couch.

Typical late night talk show: Some A-list film star, promoting some uninspired and unoriginal mammoth blockbuster, saying nothing of interest while sucking the life out of the room… and yes I am talking to you Will Ferrell.

Second Guest:

Cee Lo Talking with Strangers: No need, Cee Lo deals with one guest per episode.

Typical late night talk show: Who cares?  We stopped watching after the first guest.

Musical/Comedy Performance:

Cee Lo Talking with Strangers: Cee Lo has his guests sing two songs between each interview segment.  Cee Lo wants them to perform, he even considers his audience by not allowing rock stars to talk all program long about how essential they think they are to the music world.  Plus Cee Lo is not going to book any comedians, which would kill the vibe of the show.  Tune in to Comedy Central for your intentional comedy fix.

Typical late night talk show: Even if you are anticipating a great performance from the comedy or music act, you fell asleep 10 minutes into the show.

Look no further than Cee Lo for the future of late night shenanigans.  Catering to the format Baby Boomers are accustomed to is not Cee Lo’s forte.  He doesn’t care about that generation9 nor should he.  Can we stop rehashing the top-ten lists, Jay-walking segments,10  and Andy Richter trying to be amusing.  Cee Lo just wants you to come over to his pad, relax and enjoy the music. He does it his way and apparently it works. (I think)

Maybe I have unconsciously been searching for a hip music based talk show, or maybe I just fell into a dream that night and awoke to a fascinating man in a funny costume with his puppet.

Cee Lo’s show “Talking with Strangers airs Wednesday night beginning at 11:00 with back-to back airings on Fuse.  Turn to Channel one thousand and something 11 on your cable box.

 Footnotes:

  1. The title of the show seems somewhat ironic since his guests aren’t strangers to him.
  2. I often wonder what Arsenio Hall is up to these days.  Can he really live off that show into this decade?  I worry about him.
  3. Typical….A female audience member got wasted and threw up all over the studio thus ending the open bar era for Kimmel.
  4. Actually Carson Daly has been doing a similar structured show. The thing about Daly though, is he lacks any breadth of personality and his show runs at some ridiculous time in the middle of the night.
  5.  Not sure who this is.
  6. Train’s lead singer has no endearing qualities; I am impatiently waiting for the other band members to leave their miserable existence of being in the same band with this guy.  Maybe they can’t leave because of a Robert Johnson crossroads moment.  The devil obviously has a corking sense of humor, pairing these guys with the most annoying lead singer of a generation, in exchange for a few lousy radio hits.
  7. He is high.
  8. Late Night with David Letterman RIP 1982-1993.
  9. My mother-in-law loves the song F*** You though.
  10. Ripped from Howard Stern.
  11. Can someone explain to me how the cable companies came up with their system of numbering the channels?  If ESPN was not issued an easy to remember number (1500), I would never find it.
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