Larry Wilmore’s Comedy Central talk show might not have found a lot of viewers. It might’ve been a bit odd; a meandering change of pace compared to the quick zingers that flew from The Daily Show and The Colbert Report for all those years. But it shouldn’t have been cancelled.
This is not a unique opinion. Since the news broke yesterday many people have bemoaned the fact that the late night landscape has a hole, and as a whole is that much whiter. Clearly not enough for Comedy Central to count them as viewers, but not an insignificant number.
From my view, The Nightly Show was trying to do something no one else was. Like the best of The Daily Show alum from its prime in the aughts, Wilmore adopted the humor and insightfulness of his time with Jon Stewart but recalibrated it into a new format and a different style of talk show. The result was unique: Like Last Week Tonight or Full Frontal, Wilmore was able to use talk show set ups and comedy people were familiar with to discuss similar issues. To some it seemed light on jokes. And it was arguably not going to reach the people it should’ve, but for once there was someone consistently “reporting” and doing in depth discussions on the major issues of the day. Often the show dealt with the racial inequality and police violence that has been at the forefront of American politics for two years. Wilmore and his gaggle of guests never had to shy away from topics, they only needed to illuminate them.
Any problems with The Nightly Show itself could’ve been overcome had there been a stronger base supporting it. By which I mean, The Colbert Report could count on at least some built in, carry over audience from The Daily Show; Jon Stewart even threw to him at the end so audiences could get a taste. But since Stewart’s departure and Trevor Noah’s time at the helm, TDS has lost its cultural foothold. In an election year it used to be a thriving factory of jokes and burns. Now it’s barely on the radar.
Whil Wilmore’s format might’ve been a bit too fresh, his topics a bit hot button, his jokes a bit drawn apart, I’m guessing audiences could’ve ultimately found time to adjust, as they did when Colbert went full into character on his own show. But you can’t cancel an institution (at least not within two years of its first change in more than a decade) and so The Nightly Show got the ax.
It will be missed.