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Colbert appears to have been instantly rejected here, but guests matter

After Tuesday’s premiere of “Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” I wrote that I wondered if the uneven and disappointing opener meant it was more probable than not that first-time viewers of the former Comedy Central star drawn by the hype wouldn’t be back for the second program.

But I didn’t expect what looks like instant rejection in Western New York.

The results Wednesday were almost the reverse of the Tuesday results.

On Wednesday night, “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” won the late-night battle with a 5.1 rating on Channel 2. He was helped by the star power of his guests -- Justin Timberlake and Ellen DeGeneres. Colbert’s second show had a 2.5 rating on Channel 4 and “Jimmy Kimmel Live” had a 1.6 rating.

On opening night when Georgle Clooney and Jeb Bush were the guests, Colbert won with a 4.5 local rating to Fallon’s 2.1 and a 1.6 for Kimmel on Channel 7.

Colbert's guests Wednesday were actress Scarlett Johansson and Elon Musk. Musk is no Clooney on the star gauge, but you might have expected his involvement in the massive Solar City project here would have drawn some local interest.

A closer look at Wednesday's results makes things look even worse for Colbert here.

In the first 15 minutes starting at 11:35 p.m., Fallon (4.9) and Colbert (4.8) were in a virtual tie. But at 11:50 p.m., Fallon’s rating rose to a 5.1, while Colbert lost half his audience to a 2.4.

It is early. As I wrote in my Wednesday review, one should judge a late-night program like a marathon and not a sprint. There will be a lot of sampling going on in late-night over the next several weeks and traditionally the roster of guests influences ratings as they appeared to do on Wednesday night.

But the second night’s rating here certainly isn’t encouraging for Colbert.

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