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Late night rising

February 13, 2005

Paul BROWNFIELD'S article about Craig Ferguson was puzzling ["Sorry, Not 'Tonight,' or Any of Its Cousins," Feb. 6]. It seemed more of a complaint about the reality of that time slot than a specific analysis of the new host of CBS' "Late Late Show."

As someone who spent years writing and producing late-night TV, I can assure him the time slot dictates what the series is. It's primarily a promotional vehicle, where the biggest celebs come to show off their personalities and projects. The host has to be comfortable with that and, in the case of a new program, has to work extra hard to bring out new information from what the stars have said on similar programs. That takes brains and talent.

Beyond that, an ideal host is someone viewers will enjoy; someone quick with a quip and easy on the eyes, whose humor is so keen it gets noted.

This is what Brownfield should have recognized about Ferguson.

When Craig Kilborn left CBS and a parade of guest hosts ensued, I -- and surely others -- knew the best candidate would be Ferguson, and CBS execs gave him the gig. They did so knowing he's the host Conan O'Brien would fear most and who stands the best shot of stealing away NBC's hard-core fans.

O'Brien's initial reviews weren't kind, and it seems Ferguson is getting some of the same treatment. But true fans of the genre can spot excellence and are giving Ferguson great word of mouth, which is exactly what O'Brien used to build his audience into the creative powerhouse it is today. I predict CBS' anointment of Ferguson will be one of the shrewdest moves ever in late night. I hope Brownfield will grow to see that too.

Dawna Kaufmann

Los Angeles

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