For the late-night shows last Friday, the movie massacre in Aurora, Colo., put them in a bind.
How could they come out on stage at the end of everybody’s day on Friday — a day in which TV was dominated by coverage of the unbelievable tragedy that unfolded late Thursday night — and then entertain them with a lot of silly jokes, YouTube videos and guest chatter?
More than any other of the late-night hosts, Craig Ferguson confronted the tragedy head-on by jettisoning a monologue that had already been taped, in favor of a new opening for his “Late Late Show” on CBS.
In the new opening - which you can watch, above - Craig explained how Friday night's show was actually taped on Thursday, before the tragic rampage, and included an ordinary, comedic monologue. The show had been taped a day earlier, in keeping with summer tradition, to give show staff some Fridays off in July and August. But Craig apparently returned to work on Friday to tape his new opening, in which he made some heartfelt remarks about the tragedy.
He also explained why the show taped on Thursday would go on, minus its original monologue.
Meanwhile, on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” Leno delivered a typical monologue and hosted a normal show, except for remarks he made just before the monologue at the opening of the show. Leno acknowledged the tragedy and, like Ferguson, talked about the role his show plays on ordinary evenings — just a little comedy break before people turn in for the night.
"When the world is very serious," Jay said, "we have to come out here and be silly and just try to cheer people up a little bit." So he kept the monologue as light as he could.
Meanwhile, David Letterman’s “Late Show” was dark on Friday, as were Comedy Central’s “Daily Show with Jon Stewart” and “The Colbert Report.” “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” went on as usual on Friday. And when we scanned a tape of Friday’s “Late Night,” we didn’t come across Fallon mentioning the tragedy at all.