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Bob Costas, one part humorist, one part researcher, and all excellent
interviewer, gave NBC a bit of a surprise with this "throwaway" half
hour of chat that ran after "Late Night With David Letterman" at the
mind-numbing hour of 1:30am E/P, or really 1:35 to be precise.
The first thing you should understand is the title of the program. "Later" wasn't just referencing the hour the program aired, it was also a descriptive word for the guests on the show. Basically all of the featured talkers that sat across from Costas were people who had already had a good body of work under their belts, so you were seeing them "Later" in their careers. These were people who had stories to tell, and they told them to the show's host, usually in very entertaining detail. So, the show was like a living archive, letting the guest that evening talk about their past and catching the viewer up on what they had been doing in the years between their biggest successes and the night of the telecast.
Next, Costas knew his place. He wasn't a stand-up comic, he wasn't a performance artist who dressed up in costumes to do sketch comedy. The show never had "desk humor." In fact, it didn't even have a desk! Just two comfortable over-sized chairs, that Costas and his guest of the night shared. And the show had no audience, which added to the intensity of the discussion.
On camera it was just the host and the guest, in a setting that looked a bit like someone's private library, where Costas would ask pointed questions of a variety of people from the world of film, television, music, politics and, of course, sports, since that is his main area of interest.
What made the show so smart? Three elements: Guest selection. Not only did every guest have interesting things to say, they told their life stories in interesting ways, which is also partially due to the second element: Costas himself. The level of attention to knowing about the guest, the standard of phrasing a question and presenting a follow-up question that truly enriched the first answer was second to none. No television host was working in that way at that time, and it was nearly perfect. Finally, it was also in the editing, and the way film clips and photographs were placed into the program that enhanced the experience of watching. It was more like flipping through a photo album than watching a television program.
You got the sense that Costas and his staff not only cared about every guest that appeared on the program, but that they thought of them all as a part of their collective family. Frequently, guests would stay on for a second night or occasionally a third night, if they had a lot of experiences to share, and the feel of the program was a relaxed pace, very different from the frenetic segments seen on nearly every other late night talkfest.
Watching this program gave the viewer the sense that it was just Costas, the guest and themselves sitting together and having a chat, and though a lot of other hosts have attempted to capture that feeling, no other host has. That included Costas himself, who does a similar style interview as a segment on his HBO series "CostasNow." Though he may not have recaptured the lightning in a bottle that was "Later," Costas should look back with pride at the work he accomplished on this small budget, smaller ratings program. It was brilliant.
"Later" is the best thing Bob Costas ever did and it's a shame he's not
still doing it.
"Later" is the only interview show I've ever seen in which the guest is asked probing, insightful questions. Numerous times while watching "Later" I stood in awe of Costas for asking a brilliant question. I even enjoyed the interviews of the people I didn't care much about (such as Shelley Fabares) because Costas was so well prepared and so good at what he did.
I don't bother with Letterman, Leno, Rosie or Regis and Kelli because their interviews are 5-10 minutes long, superficial, formulaic, undisguised plugs for a movie or a book.
Bob Costas may enjoy doing sports play-by-play more than he did interviewing actors, writers, athletes, et. al. on "Later", but he's one of many as the former and one of a kind as the latter.
In my opinion, Costas is wasting his career in play-by-play and should get back to in-depth interviews such as he did on "Later".
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The previous writer was correct. When you watched the show you got to
see a great interviewer and guests open up him unlike how they would on
other shows. Kostas knew his guests and surprised them often enough
with intricate knowledge about them. It wasn't stuff to embarrass them,
but once mentioned it, he put them on queue that he had done his
homework. I gather that the guests respected that and it created a
chemistry that made the conversation easier. It appeared more real more
Some of the "Later... " episodes had incredible humor. Of all the shows I watched I can remember an episode with Dana Carvey. Costas had him go through his regular schtick and then posed another scenario... well, Carvey ran with it immediately improvised an impersonation of Jimmy Stewart being "serviced":
"Yeaahhhhhhhhhh...uhmmm that's good!"
"Do yah think you could just go over to the side a just a little...
There was an eruption of laughter. It was crazy. Kostas couldn't stop laughing and rolled out of his seat and on to the floor hysterically. You could hear the camera crew in the distance also in a state of rapturous laughter. It was brilliant. Carvey impersonated an American icon and placed him in the most unlikely of situations that anyone would think of him being in. I would LOVE to see that episode again on YouTube (no pun intended).
I could not agree with the other reviewers more. Bob Costas was and is a great sportscaster and was also a great talk show host. Because he actually talked and let his guests talk too! And he knew everything about them and their whole body of work and you knew it was not just from doing research (and that was at a time when there was no internet to do the research anyway!). He is a very intelligent man and seemed very modest and kind; this came through in all of his interviews. I wish the show was still on. It was so much more easy going as a show than Charlie Rose, the only interviewer who did the same kind of show. Tom Snyder's show in the 90's was also very good, but again they were not Bob Costas and his Later show. Mr. Costas never appeared smug and was always a real gentleman. A great show with lots of great guests!
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