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Scottish cutup Craig Ferguson to end 10 years as host of 'Late Late Show' with Friday's finale

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NEW YORK — It's not such a great day, America — not for fans of Craig Ferguson.

Ferguson, television's kinetic Scottish cutup, on Friday brings to a close his decade-long run as host of CBS' "The Late Late Show."

Airing Friday at 12:35 a.m. EST, he concludes a grand stretch of silliness and smarts that, while never posing much of a ratings threat to talk-show rivals, struck a chord with a loyal following (and earned him a coveted Peabody Award for his 2009 interview with — of all people — Archbishop Desmond Tutu). Smarts with silliness.

Last April, Ferguson told viewers he was stepping down.

"CBS and I are not getting divorced, we are consciously uncoupling," he said, puckishly echoing the words of estranged Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin.

This was no surprise since, weeks earlier, David Letterman had announced he was retiring from "Late Show," whereupon CBS tapped Stephen Colbert to replace him. Once upon a time, Ferguson had been thought a strong contender for that job.

But "The Late Late Show" began fading in the ratings, particularly with the arrival of Seth Meyers last February as his NBC competition.

Ferguson's imminent departure is being upstaged by the much-anticipated, much-lamented exit Thursday by Colbert as host of Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report." He will step into his "Late Show" role sometime after Letterman's signoff May 20.

Taking Ferguson's place as host of "The Late Late Show" is British actor-writer-comedian James Corden, who debuts March 9.

During the two-month interim, a slate of guest hosts — including Drew Carey, Will Arnett, Wayne Brady, Jim Gaffigan, Billy Gardell and Sean Hayes — will fill in.

PHOTO: In this Dec. 15, 2014 photo released by CBS, host Craig Ferguson appears on the set of "The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson," in Los Angeles. Ferguson's final show will be on Friday. (AP Photo/CBS, Monty Brinton)
In this Dec. 15, 2014 photo released by CBS, host Craig Ferguson appears on the set of "The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson," in Los Angeles. Ferguson's final show will be on Friday. (AP Photo/CBS, Monty Brinton)

But Ferguson won't be absent from the airwaves. This fall, he launched "Celebrity Name Game," a weekday syndicated game show.

Now 51, Ferguson came to "The Late Late Show" in January 2005 with a varied resume including punk-rock drummer, author, standup comic and actor. He had appeared in several films, and written and starred in three, including the 2003 comedy "I'll Be There," which he also directed. He was best known as Nigel Wick, the imperious British boss on Drew Carey's long-running ABC sitcom, a role he landed after his arrival in Los Angeles in 1995.

As "Late Late Show" host, Ferguson steadily redefined late-night talk in his own image. While most late-night hosts don't say much about who they really are, Ferguson was heroically self-disclosive, mining humor from tough times including two divorces, career setbacks, and his past drug and alcohol abuse. He spent one entire show paying tribute to his dad, who had died the day before.

The Glasgow-born Ferguson also talked up his new homeland, adopting as a frequent catchphrase, "It's a great day for America," followed by a wisecrack.

But he wasn't kidding. In 2008 he was officially sworn in as a U.S. citizen, proudly sharing video from the ceremony with his audience.

In its first years, the show was emphatically no-frills, originating from a tiny Los Angeles studio with no house band or announcer. It has remained bare-bones, although it relocated to slightly better digs and added a sassy robotic skeleton named Geoff Peterson as Ferguson's sidekick.

It was with Geoff that Ferguson in recent days was celebrating the end of his "Late Late Show" run. Or, as he put it, his "last week in this dump."

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EDITOR'S NOTE — Frazier Moore is a national television columnist for The Associated Press. He can be reached at fmoore@ap.org and at http://www.twitter.com/tvfrazier. Past stories are available at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/frazier-moore

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