Keeping it 100 with The Nightly Show

The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore debuted on Comedy Central Monday, January 19.
The Nightly Show With Larry Wilmore (Photo: Stephen Lovekin / Comedy Central)

Larry Wilmore finally has his own show! While The Nightly Show‘s first week was a little shaky, this program is exactly what we need on television right now.

The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore (nee The Minority Report) debuted on Comedy Central last week, taking over the time slot vacated by The Colbert Report. As the former Senior Black Correspondent on The Daily Show, Wilmore’s hilariously biting commentary on race in America is finally getting the half-hour treatment it sorely needs. As is the case with any show of this nature, the odds of emerging perfectly formed were nil as Monday’s episode put on the screen the jitters that a project like this would generate. However, the show improved by leaps and bounds in its first week and seemed much tighter and confident by the time Thursday’s episode aired. There are still some adjustments that need to be made, but overall the show has set a solid course for itself.

  • Contextualizing the episode. The show opens with Wilmore delivering a monologue/news segment to create context for the subject of the episode. These have come across as a solo extended version of Wilmore’s TDS segments. However, Wilmore seems to be trying to emulate Jon Stewart. For example, in Thursday’s Cuba segment, a news clip ends and we return to the studio with Wilmore holding seven or eight cigars in his mouth. Though a funny visual, that style of joke doesn’t feel authentic to Wilmore’s voice. The show hasn’t done too many jokes like this, so it may just have been an experiment to see what lands and what doesn’t.
  • Graphics. There doesn’t appear to be a graphics strategy for The Nightly Show. The lower-thirds in the contextualizing segment seem a bit haphazard and look more like icons on a computer screen rather than conveying any useful (or hilarious) information. In the panel segments, the participants are rarely identified, which can be annoying when they make a good point and you want to try to google them.
  • The Panel. As much as I want The Nightly Show to be it’s own thing, the similarities to Politically Incorrect can’t be ignored and should be embraced. I appreciate that the participants are fully engaged in the conversation and aren’t trying to score points or make plugs. The staging is a little awkward—the angle of the table means backs are facing the camera in any given shot, and NPR’s Linda Holmes makes a good point that the segment reads a little bit like a group interview rather than a discussion.
  • Keep “Keeping it 100”? The group interview mentality may have to do with the Keep it 100 segment. This segment is a racially-toned “Would You Rather” which is more of a conversation-stopper than promoter. Rather than have it be it’s own segment, I would love to see it used McLaughlin Group style, thereby expanding the group discussion into two segments and getting multiple perspectives on multiple topics. This would also allow for more throwing of teabags and “100” coasters—more things should be thrown at cable television panelists.

If you haven’t checked out The Nightly Show yet, you really should. There was marked improvement from Monday’s show to Thursday’s episode. As long as Larry Wilmore and company listen with one ear and continue to establish their voice, this show has the potential of generating important discussions.

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About Mike McComb 656 Articles
Mike has been writing about TV online since 2008, when he started the blog WTF Little House on the Prairie? The blog was a project to practice writing about television analytically prior to getting an MA in Television-Radio-Film from Syracuse University, or as he likes to call it "TV Camp." After a lengthy stint at TVLatest, Mike wanted to launch a site that brought in classic TV, diamonds in the rough, and the shows everybody watches. E-mail: mike@whatelseison.tv