Near the top of his monologue he used the line: "As I was saying, before I was so rudely interrupted." The tale has long been told that when the BBC resumed television broadcasts in June 1946 after a seven-year lapse because of the matter known as World War II, the picture resumed with the same announcer who'd last been heard on the air in September 1939 with the line: "As I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted."
Great story. Unfortunately, it happens to be apocryphal, at least according to the Beeb. In 2006, BBC covered the 60th anniversary of its post-war return to the TV in-depth, and as it turns out, the opening words from host Jasmine Bligh were not quite as clever.
"Good afternoon everybody. How are you? Do you remember me, Jasmine Bligh? Well here we are after a lapse of nearly seven years ready to start again and of course we are all terribly excited and thrilled."
The tall tale had it that the the BBC's picture went dark in 1939 in the middle of a Mickey Mouse cartoon, and that it resumed seven years later at the exact same point in the toon with the announcer's voice-over. In reality, the Mickey Mouse cartoon ran in full, then was followed by test signals. The tale is detailed in this BBC News account from June 2006.
Nonetheless, Ferguson seemed to be giving a nod to the past, at least the more interesting version. (My colleague Brian Lowry also notes in his insightful review of "Late Late Show" that Jack Paar also used the "As I was saying..." line when he came back to "The Tonight Show" in 1960 after famously walking off for a month in a censorship dispute with NBC.) He made his own solemn vow to the viewing public a few minutes later in his heartfelt, but still appropriately cheeky, opening soliloquy. In response to all the speculation that WGA-sanctioned David Letterman and Ferguson will have the advantage in booking top-tier guests over WGA-struck Jay Leno, Conan O'Brien and Jimmy Kimmel, Ferguson promised:
"This show won’t change a bit. It will be garbage. I make you this pledge people of America. We will not improve this show. It will not be funnier. It will not be better."
What we really need now is a visit to "The Late Late Show" from Hugh Laurie. When he and Craig go at it, the brogue gets so thick you can cut it with a knife -- and us Yanks can make out about every fourth word. Now that's quality latenight television. Welcome back, Craig.
(Read Ferguson's entire monologue after the jump.)
Welcome to LA, California. Welcome to The Late Late Show.
I’m your host, TV’s Craig Ferguson.
Sit down, relax, that is more than enough.
As I was saying, before I was so rudely interrupted…
It’s a great day for America. We’re back. We are back!!!
Most of you probably didn’t notice this, but we were away for awhile.
Writers strike still on, but we got special pass.
It is the TV equivalent of diplomatic immunity. I’m like Switzerland in TV: “I’ll hold the jackets and your money you two continue to fight.”
This is the way they talk in Switzerland. Movies from 1940’s about Nazi’s. “Have you tried our chocolate?”
My boss, David Letterman – I know he’s my boss! - made a deal for our shows to return with the whole staff.
And if anyone in America can get a deal made, it’s David Letterman.
I found that out when I was making deal to work here.
I tried to be tough, but Dave made an offer I couldn’t refuse.
I woke up and found Paul Shaffer’s head in my bed.
Luckily it was still attached to Paul. Oh we made beautiful music together.
You got some music for this Paul.
People are saying that this show and Dave’s show are going to get all the A-list guests as a result of this deal.
I read that on Internet – that means it’s true.
I want to send a message to all the D-list celebrities, you’re always welcome here.
We’ll still have Kathy Griffin on, guy who invented electric cheese cutter,
People who can fart musical notes.
This show won’t change a bit. It will be garbage. I make you this pledge people of America. We will not improve this show. It will not be funnier. It will not be better.
So I had 2 whole months off work. Two months – it was horrible.
I didn’t know what to do with myself. Well, I knew one thing to do, but once you do that one thing. After that, you have the rest of the day.
Grew strike beard. Got itchy so I shaved it off. Then grew it back again. That was just the 1st day.
Next time, I’ll grow on my face.
Was tough for me not having an outlet for whatever this is.
Went into Starbucks every morning, did monologue for people worked there.
“It’s a great day for America.
Gimme a tall, frothy latte and 2 sticky buns.
Tall, frothy, sticky buns - remind you of anyone?”
You know what else I did? Learned to ski. I know! I should say I tried to ski.
Fell down, really hurt my hip. Just in parking lot.
A guy came up to me: “Hi, Craig.”
I thought, “This is great. People haven’t forgotten about me.”
Then he said “You’re Craig Kilborn, right?.” “Look it’s Craig Kilborn!”
Hey, I was flattered. Usually I’m mistaken for Liza Minnelli.
A lot of things happened while I was away. Paul McCartney had heart surgery. Surgery really took a toll on him.
Do we have picture Paul McCartney? (Holds up pic of Angela Lansbury) Still the cute Beatle.
It’ll take more than a writers strike to stop us showing that picture. That’s what we do on this show.
Some of the celebrities calmed down. Lindsay Lohan quiet during strike.
I think she’s waiting for strike to be over. Or maybe her dealer’s on strike too.
That joke brought to you by the WGA. I can now blame the WGA for every lame thing I do.
I grew up in an environment of strikes. Britain in 1970s, everyone on strike.
Coal miners, postal workers, the dentists.
I’ll never forget the British dental strike of 1979. It’s still going they never resolved it.
But when the British miners went on strike, it was very violent, they set fire to cars.
When my writers went on strike, they set fire to their farts.
Strikes are not the same in L.A.
Strikers on the picket lines bring their yoga mats to the picket lines, they wear sexy outfits & high heels.
Alright, that was just me – but it was fun. Was fun and Eddie Murphy gave me ride home. I might have made that up myself.
You have to be careful during a strike cause emotions run very high.
I was glad to see the writers doing things to try and lighten the mood.
Some of the picket lines have different themes.
Saw a science-fiction themed picket line.
People dressed like characters from 'Star Trek.' I was amazed.
Who’d have thought that a TV writer would have his own Star Trek costume? What a surprise!
That’s like saying Donald Trump owns a wig.
Do you know what else they had?
They had a “Bring a Celebrity to Picket line.” Really.
I called to see if they wanted me to show up, they said “Fine, but who are you bringing?”
Thought that up myself.
No one knows how long this strike will go on.
The two sides aren’t talking to each other. It’s like being married.
Have to go to bed at night without anything happening, play rerun in your head.
It’s good to be back, but not really business as usual.
No guests tonight. None. Don’t you 'ohhhh' me – you’ll get your money.
Tonight it’s all comedy. And we use that term loosely here. Whatever the hell we do - drama and funny costumes.
God it is good to see you!!!