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Eight years ago, when Craig Ferguson became an American citizen, he went out and got a tattoo.

Not just any tattoo. He got a snake tattooed on his right forearm.

But not just any snake. It's a re-creation of Benjamin Franklin's 1754 cartoon "Join or Die" — a snake cut up into pieces, representing the original colonies.

"I went down to a place on Sunset, and there was a gentleman there who was at least four days off methamphetamine and his hand was reasonable steady," Ferguson joked. "And I showed him the design. This was … the first symbol of the colonies that united eventually to become the United States."

It's also the title of his new show on the History Channel, "Join or Die with Craig Ferguson." He comes out, tells a few jokes and introduces the topic — something like "Biggest Political Blunder" or "Worst Medical Advice." And then he and three guests — two celebrities and one "expert" — sit down an discuss it.

The show feels unstructured. Although each episode has a theme, it's pretty much all over the place.

"The show goes where it goes," said executive producer Brian Volk Weiss. "It's a real fluid experience that, if it works, great. We just have fun with it and go with it."

When Ferguson was hosting CBS' "Late Late Show," he was known for a couple of things — his often unrehearsed, largely off-the-cuff openings, and the fact that, unlike so many talk-show hosts, he actually listened to the people he was interviewing.

"I didn't really consider myself a late-night talk-show host," he said. "I was just the guy who kind of fell into a late-night talk show. And that haphazard, odd, stumbling forward continues into this.

"I don't pretend to be a journalist, but I'm genuinely interested in the stuff that I'm talking about to these people."

Ferguson is an incredibly likable guy. He's smart. He's funny. His "Late Late Show" was one of the best late-night talk shows ever. He used to say, "It's a great day for America" every night.

He titled his autobiography "American on Purpose: The Improbable Adventures of an Unlikely Patriot."

"I, as a new citizen, was and remain a very patriotic American," said Ferguson, who clearly has a strong interest in U.S. history.

But "Join or Die" isn't exactly history. It's very lightweight stuff, which seems to have been thrown together with minimal preparation.

Ferguson remains hugely charming. It's great to have him back in late night. He's been missed.

(No, that's not a slam against his "Late Late Show" successor, James Corden.

Too bad Ferguson isn't in a better show.

(New episodes of "Join or Die" premiere Thursday nights at 9 on DirecTV and Dish Network and midnight on Comcast, with multiple repeats throughout the week.)

Scott D. Pierce covers television for The Salt Lake Tribune . Email him at; follow him on Twitter @ScottDPierce.