James Corden said farewell to CBS on Thursday evening by doing something no one ever thought would be possible: Getting Tom Cruise to sing Elton John’s hit ballad “Can You Feel the Love Tonight.”
After an opening “The Last Last Late Late Show with James Corden Carpool Karaoke Special” by singing “Last Show” (to the tune of “Last Dance”), and quick opening monologue, Corden switched to its heavily promoted final pre-tape with Cruise. As previously announced, the action star icon and the host joined a performance of “The Lion King” at the Pantages Theatre in Hollywood. The first part of the clip showed the two rehearsing and singing on stage in costume — but from there, the sketch turned into a bit of a farewell between the two.
As Corden played up his sadness at saying farewell to Cruise, the duo broke into the John song (which, of course, won an Oscar in 1994 for its part in the animated “Lion King” film). Corden began: “Tom, I mean, everything you’ve done for my show, everything you’ve done for me, I’ll never be able to…” Cruise interrupted him: “James, you had me at hello.”
“I love you Tom,” Corden added. “I know,” responded Cruise, before hopping on a waiting helicopter.
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Also on the primetime special: A final “Carpool Karaoke,” featuring Adele — who had surprised Corden at his house for a drive to the show’s Television City studio. Between driving and singing, Adele also grilled Corden on his memories about “The Late Late Show.”
“The thing I was most worried about was how do we get guests on the show?” he said. “I mean, we couldn’t book anyone. And then things like ‘Carpool,’ I mean, no one would do it.” Mariah Carey became the first performer to say yes, but as Corden recalled, things changed when she arrived: “Mariah comes out and the first thing she says to me, ‘I’ll do the chat. I ain’t singing.’” Carey, of course, wound up singing — and “Carpool Karaoke” became an institution.
Things then got serious as Adele discussed how her song “I Drink Wine” was inspired by a conversation she and Corden had about their lives. “The first verse of this song, which I think is some of my best writing I’ve ever done even if I do say so myself, was inspired by a conversation that you and I had had,” she said. “We’d just been on vacation together with the kids and we were on our way home and my mood had changed. It was like the first year that I felt like I had to hold myself accountable for just being an adult, whereas the year before that, I left Simon and stuff like that. You were like an always an adult to me, you would always give me this advice. And then I remember I said to you on the way home, what’s wrong? You just seemed down and you let it all out to me. You didn’t feel strong and we were having a six hour conversation about it. It was like the whole way home.”
Corden responded, “It was work stuff and the internet and it was all those things.” Responded Adele: “It got me thinking I felt so unsafe with you feeling unsafe. Then I went to the studio a couple of weeks later and I wrote this. I remember I sang it into my phone and I sent it to you.” Said Corden: “It was everything that I was feeling that day. I was floored by how you’d managed to take everything that I was feeling about myself and life and just put it in a verse. It’s the greatest privilege that from some a conversation between two friends that you would create such a thing. It blows my mind.”
Adele rounded the “Carpool” out by asking Corden what he’d miss most. “I’ll miss I miss everything,” he said. “I think I underestimated how many friends I’d make doing this. More than anything, I will just miss going into work with my friends every day. And I’m really gonna miss Los Angeles. I love it. It’s been a brilliant adventure.”
Later, the final episode of “The Late Late Show with James Corden” opened with a bit of a tease: Corden did a victory lap with staff – and then proceeded to get “stuck” in a stairwell.
Then he opened with the usual check-in with the “Late Late Show” cast of staff characters. “This is the final ‘Late Late Show’ in the history of CBS and I’m telling you tonight finally we are in determined to get it right this time,” he quipped. Corden’s parents and sisters were in the audience, and he welcomed guests Harry Styles and Will Ferrell (who proceeded to destroy Corden’s desk with a sledgehammer).
But first, one more sketch: Fellow late night hosts Seth Meyers, Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon and Stephen Colbert appeared in Corden’s bedroom, warning him that he can’t just leave his show — at least, not without handing over his bits. Also appearing in the sketch: David Letterman, and later, Trevor Noah (as fellow talk retiree Noah and Corden are seen, “six months later,” on “The Masked Singer” set).
Corden noted that this sketch was yet another example of how the so-called late night wars are no longer a thing. He shared to the audience that Fallon had sent an ice cream truck for the show’s crew.
The episode also featured a special message from President Biden: “Thank you for all the joy you brought homes across America,” he said in the taped piece. “Special thanks for never asking me to sing in the car with you.”
With Styles and Ferrell, Corden played one final game of “Spill Your Guts or Fill Your Guts.” Asked who his favorite late night host will be now, Ferrell said Seth Meyers — but ate some terrible food anyway. And when Styles was asked whether One Direction would ever reunite, he admitted, “I would never say never.”
Corden ended the final episode with a message for his audience: “I’m thinking for a while, the last few weeks about what I was gonna say as we come to the end of the show after this wonderful adventure and I’ve struggled at times to find the words to sum up what this past eight years has meant to me. It is almost impossible. I frankly don’t know where to start.
“But I sit here now, today, with nothing but love, gratitude and pride. This show is everything I ever wanted it to be.”
After thanking his team, as well as CBS, Corden turned serious: “You know we started this show with Obama, then Trump then a global pandemic. And I’ve watched America change a lot. Over these past few years, I’ve watched divisions grow. And I’ve seen and I felt a sense of negativity bubble and at points boil over.
“I guess all I really want to say tonight is I implore you to remember what America signifies to the rest of the world. My entire life, it has always been a place of optimism and joy. And yes, it has flaws. So many. But show me a country that doesn’t. Show me a person that doesn’t. Me, you all of us. We are all trying to figure this out. We are every single one of us a work in progress. And just because somebody disagrees with you. It doesn’t make them bad or evil. We are all more the same than we are different. And there are so many people who are trying to stoke those differences. And we have to try as best we can to look for the light. Look for the joy. Because if you do, it’s out there.
“And that’s all this show has ever been about. All we’ve ever wanted is just be a little bit of light and levity at the end of your day. Thank you for letting me do this. Thank you for allowing me into your home every night.”
With that, “The Late Late Show with James Corden” ended with one final number, Corden singing a farewell tune, “That’s Our Show.”