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James Corden: CBS' new 'Late Late Show' bloke

Will “warmth” draw an audience for British host? Plus, a look at Larry Wilmore’s first two months of “Nightly Show.”

* THE LATE LATE SHOW WITH JAMES CORDEN. 12:37 a.m. weeknights, CBS3.

I'M NO statistician, but men named James who were born between 1967 and 1978 seem to have had a slightly better chance than the rest of us to grow up and host an American late-night show.

Even if that growing up occurred in Britain.

Not that I'm bitter.

So what if (at least) 51 percent of the population, U.S. or otherwise, is regularly overlooked when high-paying jobs open up for people named James or Jimmy (or Jay or Jon or Dave or Seth or Conan) to comment on the day's news and maybe chat up an actor or two before rolling their clips?

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler and [fill in your candidate here] clearly have better things to do.

And 36-year-old James Corden, who tonight takes over the CBS "Late Late Show" recently vacated by Scottish import Craig Ferguson, seems like a lovely bloke.

"Seems" because, unlike Ferguson, who'd co-starred in "The Drew Carey Show" and who made the unexpected switch to late-night host after shining in an on-air tryout, Corden's less known here than he is in Britain.

If you saw BBC America's "Gavin & Stacey," which Corden co-created with Ruth Jones, you know him as Gavin's rumpled friend, Smithy. More recently, he's co-starred in Hulu's "The Wrong Mans" and played Baker in "Into the Woods."

Corden, who bears more than a passing resemblance to "Conan" sidekick Andy Richter, has an OBE and a 2012 Tony for Best Lead Actor in a Play for "One Man, Two Guvnors." OBE is short for "Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire," and comes from the queen. Though I doubt he'll be able to book her.

In a meeting with reporters during the Television Critics Association's meetings in January, Corden was self-effacing to the point of parody.

"I'm from High Wycombe, which you've never heard of, in Buckinghamshire, and there is just no rhyme or reason why I should be given the opportunity to host a late-night talk show and talk to America every night and hopefully try and make them smile before - or more like whilst - they fall asleep," he said.

Yes, he said "whilst." So, kind of adorable.

It's not going to hurt that one of Corden's first guests is Tom Hanks, who's scheduled for tonight, along with Mila Kunis. (Philly's Kevin Hart will be on Wednesday.)

Corden and his producers had been at work for only four days when they met with reporters in January and their plans were understandably vague.

Corden said then he was hoping that the show would have "warmth."

"I really feel like, in this current climate in this time, we want to make a warm show, a show . . . that never feels spiky," he said.

"Because so much of what you see and read and are polluted by is not pleasant right now," he said.

'The Nightly Show'

It's too soon to say if warmth after midnight will be a hot ticket, but two months into the tenure of another late-night host, Larry Wilmore, I'd say spiky has its place.

Wilmore's "The Nightly Show" (11:30 p.m., Comedy Central), which follows "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart," has so far been a smart mix of serious and silly, and a window into a world of people (even women!) with things to say that may not be heard elsewhere in late night.

It's not yet, as Wilmore might say, "keeping it 100" every night, but a show that in some episodes can address fatherhood - and the rate of out-of-wedlock births - with a panel of African-American fathers and then in another utterly geek-out in a discussion about superheroes has been a reason for me to stay up till midnight more nights than I should.

Wilmore can be self-effacing, too, but when he takes on "prosperity Gospel" preachers, as he did last week in response to Creflo Dollar's asking parishioners to kick in to buy him a Gulfstream jet, he can also be hilariously merciless.

Late-night diversity may still mostly mean a British accent on CBS, but at least the landscape's not entirely actors and anecdotes and a choice among Jimmys.

Phone: 215-854-5950

On Twitter: @elgray