A billboard currently stationed outside CBS' Television City studio in Los Angeles gives thanks to Craig Ferguson for "10 years of joyous insanity," adding, "it truly was not like any other late night show."
That's not an exaggeration. The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson was the first talk show to feature a robot sidekick — the sassy skeleton Geoff Peterson — and a galloping mascot like Secretariat (actually two guys in a horse costume). And unlike most other hosts, Ferguson likes to interview guests in a freeform fashion, notably tearing up his notes at the start of each chat.
But it all ends Friday night, as CBS airs Ferguson's final show for the network. The host, who will be vacationing in his native Scotland by the time the last episode actually airs, pre-taped the show on Thursday night, welcoming his final guest, Jay Leno, and ending the show with a dream sequence inspired by the famous Newhart finale.
Ferguson, who took over as Late Late Show host on Jan. 3, 2005 (replacing Craig Kilborn), opened the finale by thanking viewers for coming "to a show that was a bit of a fixer upper and it kind of stayed that way. Maybe 'art' is a grand word, but what I was trying to do here, and I think we managed to do here, was make something that wasn't here before. This show belongs to you and I hope you keep it because I'm done with it."
He added: "What was more overwhelming than anything else was making a connection with a country that I became a part of. In course of this show I became an American officially," says Ferguson, who earned citizenship in 2008.
Although it's not yet official, Ferguson is expected to announce in the coming weeks that he's hosting a new early evening syndicated talk show for Tribune Broadcasting (which also carries his pop culture game show Celebrity Name Game).
On his last Late Late Show, Ferguson coyly hinted at what's to come. "I wanted to make this clear, I'm not retiring," he says. "I'm stopping doing this, I'm not stopping doing it. I'll still do it to you. I might do it a bit earlier and I might do it in a different place... [If you] come to whatever I do next I'd be grateful because my kids are still young."
Ferguson was playful and relaxed on the final show, letting plenty of expletives rip (at least half a dozen, much to the on-camera chagrin of producer Michael Naidus), allowing Secretariat one last dance and even giving Geoff the robot the chance to make an off-the-cuff Bill Cosby joke. "I really feel for people tuning in to this show for the first time," Ferguson quipped of the mayhem.
Later, Leno pointed out that both of them are now out of a job. "It's fun being a comedian again," Leno said, "instead of a talk show host. You're not dealing with publicists."
Ferguson said both Leno and Larry King both told him not to leave the CBS job — but that he did anyway. Ferguson thanked Leno for his friendship over the years. In return, Leno lauded Ferguson for staying neutral in the so-called late night wars. "You didn't join the late night snippy club," he said.
The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson finale opened with a pre-taped montage of the host's pals and previous guests singing along (and pounding instruments) to "Bang Your Drum," by Dead Man Fall (a band from Ferguson's native Cumbernauld, Scotland). Among the participants: Jimmy Kimmel, Betty White, Ray Romano, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Joel McHale, "Weird Al" Yankovic, Jack Black, Cedric the Entertainer, Larry King, Rashida Jones, Kristen Bell and Bishop Desmond Tutu. (The show filmed most of those stars filmed in front of a blue screen over the past few months, but some sent their videos into the show).
The number ended on the Late Late Show stage, as Ferguson sang, the Sex Pistols' Steve Jones played guitar and a gospel choir joined in. That led to a lengthy standing ovation from the audience. "If they had done more of that," he said of the crowd's reaction, "I probably wouldn't have quit!"
The Late Late Show ended on a cheeky note: Ferguson revealed that the man inside the Secretariat costume was Bob Newhart — who informed Ferguson that this was all a dream sequence. Cut to Ferguson in bed (just like the end of Newhart). He wakes up the person next to him to let them know about the dream he just had. And that person is...
You'll have to watch the finale to find out. It airs at Friday at 12:37 a.m. ET / 11:37 p.m. CT on CBS. After this week, The Late Late Show will continue with a slew of guest hosts, leading up to the premiere of The Late Late Show with James Corden on Monday, March 23.Watch a clip: