The Nightly Show Is Very Promising

The Nightly Show

I watched the first episode of The Nightly Show. I’ve been looking forward to it, because I think that Larry Wilmore is brilliant. Just the same, it is replacing The Colbert Report so I was concerned that it mightn’t live up to my expectations. There is the issue that Wilmore’s character on The Daily Show was just as limited as Colbert had been. But given that Colbert was a parody of the self-parody Bill O’Reilly, I thought that Wilmore’s subtle and intelligent satire mightn’t translate to a half hour show.

There was nothing to worry about. The Nightly Show seems to be patterned on Politically Incorrect. The show opens with Wilmore doing a monologue. But unlike it was with Bill Maher, it isn’t a stand-up comedy kind of thing. As far as I know, Wilmore is not and never has been a stand-up comedian (again, like Colbert). It was more a humorous essay. And it was strong and very funny. I know that people think that a first episode ought to be really good because all the writers get weeks to work on it. But this is not my experience. Shows normally get better over time.

The B and C blocks were panels. Last night’s was made up Shenaz Treasury, Cory Booker, Talib Kweli, and Bill Burr as “the white guy.” It is a shame that these shows feel the need to include actual politicians like Booker. As politicians go, he isn’t terrible. But the truth is that politicians in this day are so media polished that they literally never say anything that is interesting. And Booker got far too much time to talk. Treasury got little time to talk, although she did bring up the canard about black-on-black crime, noting that roughly 84% of crime is white-on-white. Bill Burr was funny and at least a little provocative in suggesting that the only way that society really changes is when psychopaths get in charge. That was meant to over the top, but his notion that protests now seem to be illegal was dead on.

The best moment in panel discussion was when Booker said that we can’t reduce everything to a binary situation: police officers against the civilians. But Kweli, in his understand way, shot back against this whole kind of “blue lives matter” narrative. He pointed out that protest movements are about solidarity, “You don’t go to a rally to beat cancer and say, ‘All diseases matter!'” That’s a great observation and it gets to the underlying problem with Booker’s point, which is that it is really all about shutting down conversation. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough of this kind of (even polite) conflict in the discussion. But I expect that to improve over time.

The C block involved something called, “Keeping it 100.” In it, Wilmore asked a question of each of the guests where they were supposed to be absolutely honest. If they were, they got a “I Kept It 100” sticker and if not they got a tea bag — “weak tea.” The segment itself was weak tea. The only interesting question was for Talib Kweli about whether hip hop helps or hurts images of African Americans. Clearly, Kweli could write a book on the subject and he tried to provide a nuanced answer but was not given the time. Ultimately, he just said what everyone should know: hip hop is a symptom of society, not a cause. I’m not at all sure this segment is going to stand the test of time.

However, in the short D block, “Keeping it 100” was applied directly Wilmore. They plan to take questions from social media and have Wilmore hear them for the first time live. The question last night was, “What’s the last racist thought you had?” I think this could work pretty well as long as the staff really test Wilmore.

Overall, for a first episode, I thought The Nightly Show was excellent. I think it has a lot of potential. The question is whether Comedy Central will give it enough time to mature. The Daily Show took years to reach its stride. I think the format of The Nightly Show will make it easier to do that. But we’ll see. I’ll definitely be watching.

7 thoughts on “The Nightly Show Is Very Promising

  1. Well, the fucking idiots at Comedy Central shitcanned it. Told Wilmore on Monday that tonight’s was the last episode. Even though the show has gotten really, really good. Wilmore is brilliant. The team of correspondents had started to gel. And even though the ratings drop from “Colbert” is due almost entirely to the ratings drop from the lead-in. Trevor Noah is young and handsome; he gets those all-important social media shares. Wilmore’s audience is a little older — and probably a little blacker.

    Eat a bag of dicks, Comedy Central. Seriously. Gee, I wonder why the show doesn’t get enough “traction.” Maybe because you never promoted it worth a damn. If you go on YouTube you find three TDS clips for every TNS. I have nothing against Noah — he’s actually best when he’s being serious IMO. But Wilmore could be deadly damn serious and funny at the same time.

    Screw that network. No wonder Stewart got better after he decided to quit. I’m never watching another second of programming on that network ever again. They fire Wilmore and keep “Tosh 2.0.” That’s ludicrous. HBO and Showtime, get on the phone.

    • I must admit to not watching TNS. And as you indicate, it isn’t the fault of the show. It’s just that I became disgusted with TDS. I do have something against Noah: he isn’t that good. And he’s had it easy with Trump running. Imagine how bad the show will be if Clinton wins the presidency and Trump disappears? Anyway, I always watched the shows together (online). I have seen some TNS over the last six months, and I did notice that it had improved. But I’m not the demographic they want anyway. Even when I was the demographic they wanted, I wasn’t.

      Anyway, it’s sad. But Comedy Central has made a lot of bad decisions over the years.

      • I’ve been watching it more (online) recently and been very impressed. The way it handled cop murder-mania of citizens was both brilliant and hilarious. And the way CC canned the show, with a few days’ notice, is simply insane. I’m so pissed off!

        • It makes you wonder if Stewart wasn’t encouraged to go. Getting too old and all. Anyway, I’m sorry to hear it.

          • They had a fun last week. Samantha Bee sent over wine, so they were drinking wine during Tuesday’s show. Then Colbert sent a few hundred mini-bar bottles on Wednesday. And Oliver champagne Thursday. And Wilmorr promised “I’m not done.”

            It’s the whole idiotic entertainment industry attitude that drives me crazy. A show like that costs very little. And yet it has to be canned because the company wants a bigger hit. Just like movie studios can’t support cheap films with good stories. Music labels, the same. Even newspapers, now. Monetizing everything is madness.

            • Yeah. I think it is why I focus more and more on matters of the soul (in the traditional, not religious, sense). What does this culture have to offer? Not much.

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