Winnipeg bids to host ‘Late, Late Show’
WINNIPEG – Winnipeg could be on its way to a starring role on U.S. network television, if a prominent talk-show host brings his late, late night act here.
Mayor Sam Katz and city hall officials are trying to work out an agreement to bring The Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson to Winnipeg with a week’s worth of programs, the Sun has learned.
The nightly CBS program’s stint in the ‘Peg — if the city is prepared to cough up cash to make it happen — would give Manitoba a taste of the limelight that Toronto enjoyed when NBC’s Conan O’Brien took his Late Night show to the Ontario capital’s Elgin Theatre for four days in February 2004.
Katz is looking at bringing in Ferguson — the Scottish actor and comedian who has mentioned Winnipeg on his program several times — for what would likely be a four- or five-night run.
“He’s been to Winnipeg. He likes the city. He refers to it all the time in his humourous way. And there might be some interest in having him come here and do four shows,” Katz told the Sun yesterday.
“We’re just going to start looking into it now.”
The talks got rolling yesterday when Hart Berger, a Florida film and television writer, dropped into Katz’s office to make the pitch on behalf of producers of the Los Angeles-based show — which Ferguson took over last year from former host Craig Kilborn.
“This would be a tremendous benefit to the Winnipeg brand name and in marketing the city to the U.S.,” said Berger, a former Winnipeg resident.
“It would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
It’s uncertain when any run here could happen, though Berger suggested a slate of dates coinciding with the Winnipeg Folk Festival — an annual July event — would help supply a stream of talent easily impressive enough for the show’s U.S. audience.
The Late, Late Show and Worldwide Pants, the David Letterman-run production company that controls the show, are eyeing Winnipeg for Ferguson’s first stint with the show outside L.A.
Berger didn’t reveal details on financial “incentives” that would have to come from city hall, though he made clear a “hospitality offer” covering costs of meals and hotels for the show’s staff is necessary.
Kenny Boyce, the city’s film and culture manager, is to discuss possibilities with Berger in the coming week. Berger expects to be able to return Winnipeg’s offer — if there is one — to Ferguson’s producers next Friday.
“They’ve asked me in Los Angeles to bring back the kind of offer Winnipeg would make,” Berger said. “They’re taking Winnipeg as a serious possibility.”
Ferguson’s interest in Winnipeg stems partly from time he spent here acting in the film Niagara Motel, which was released a couple of weeks ago.
Berger sees a run in Manitoba’s capital — possibly at the Burton Cummings Theatre — as a “good counter” to a recent Globe and Mail newspaper feature that criticized Winnipeg’s downtown.
O’Brien’s stint in Toronto came when officials anted up a rumoured total of between $1 million and $2 million as an incentive to the show’s producers, to try to help their tourism industry fight the effects of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) after the disease killed 44 people there in 2003.
The NBC show “showed off a lot of the city and its lifestyle and culture” while attracting top Canadian and Hollywood celebrities, said Don Wanagas, spokesman for Toronto Mayor David Miller. That kind of attention, he said, is something Winnipeg shouldn’t brush off quickly.
“It was well worth the money,” Wanagas said.
“I wouldn’t ignore it. It’s good from the perspective of getting your municipality and province known outside the country.”
Katz warned Winnipeggers against dreaming of TV Land too quickly.
“Would I like to see it? Absolutely,” he said. “But we have all sorts of priorities that take money. I’m not interested in spending money on something that’s not a priority.
“By the same token, if it could have a great economic impact at a minimal expense, that’s a different story.”
Winnipeg bids to host ‘Late, Late Show’