I adore James Corden, and I bet you will, too.
Now if your mind went blank when you heard the 35-year-old Brit is the front-runner to replace Craig Ferguson at the helm of CBS’ “The Late, Late Show,” you are in good company.
But, please, trust me on this: If Mr. Corden gets the gig, you’re in for a treat. And even if someone else takes the chair when Mr. Ferguson departs in December, you’ll have found a bright new comedy star to follow.
Any anglophile will tell you that Mr. Corden is one of the brightest lights in British comedy. You’ve probably read some of his acting credits, but to me, his brightest acting light first shone on the much-honored drama “Fat Friends,” which aired 2000-2005 on ITV, a commercial station in the U.K. He played a bullied 15-year-old who struggles to emotionally support his ultra-needy mom while he toys with thoughts of suicide.
Clearly, that isn’t anyone’s idea of a laugh riot, but the part gave Mr. Corden the chance to show that he’s not a one-trick pony. He allowed his character’s sorrows to envelop him without ever tipping into sappy soap opera.
Although there were comedic bits in “Fat Friends” — including those played by the incredible Ruth Jones — Mr. Corden was involved in only a few of those scenes. Yet his understated comedic timing was the stuff of classic comedians such as Bob Newhart.
Flash forward to 2007, when BBC Wales aired the brilliant and much-lauded comedy series “Gavin & Stacey,” created and written by Mr. Corden and Ms. Jones. (When you consider “Gavin & Stacey,” erase from your memory the horrible Fox TV remake “Us & Them,” which lasted only six episodes due to poor script quality.)
The multi-award-winning “Gavin & Stacey” was a romantic situation comedy about the relationship between an English fellow named Gavin and a lass from Wales named Stacey. The two quickly fall in love but struggle to overcome their cultural and socio-economic differences in sweetly amusing ways with a few oh-no-will-they-make-it moments.
Mr. Corden played Smithy, Gavin’s best mate, and Ms. Jones played Nessa, Stacey’s best friend. Smithy and Nessa both help and hurt the young lovebirds’ fledging romance as they develop their own, well, kinship.
The series — which aired three seasons and a Christmas special — was written and developed to entice viewers of all ages. Sure, a 20-something couple were the main characters, but the older parents, relatives and friends were fully developed in their own rights and played pivotal roles in the couple’s every day lives.
The point, though, is that Mr. Corden, who won the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) award for his acting was half of the creative force behind it.
One must also credit him and Ms. Jones for ending the series, despite fans’ pleas for more, when they felt the story had reached a natural conclusion.
Now that’s not to say Mr. Corden has not had a career misstep. The BBC comedy “Horne and Corden,” with co-star Matthew Horne, was cancelled after its 2009 season because of poor reviews and ratings. Mr. Corden told the BBC that the show was a mistake because he was not talented enough to create a sketch show.
But this fellow learns from his mistakes. The past five years have found Mr. Corden winning a 2012 Tony Award for “One Man, Two Guvnors,” hosting the Brit Awards, and starring in the critically acclaimed six-episode BBC series “The Wrong Man,” which he created with co-star Matthew Baynton.
Movie-goers will spot him in “Begin Again,” now in theaters, and later this year he’ll be seen in the James Lapine-Stephen Sondheim musical fantasy film “Into the Woods,” starring Meryl Streep.