When “The Colbert Report” aired its finale in December, it felt like someone had pulled the rug out from under the late-night comedy world. The show was completely unlike anything else on TV, and it was hard to even imagine replacing that. The new show filling in its 11:30 p.m. Comedy Central timeslot, “The Nightly Show,” is nothing like “The Colbert Report,” but that’s completely okay.
“The Nightly Show’s” host, Larry Wilmore, should be recognizable to fans of “The Daily Show” as the show’s senior black correspondent. Wilmore’s other credits include small parts in “I Love You, Man,” “Dinner for Schmucks” and, most recently, “Playing House” on USA. He also serves as an executive producer on ABC’s “black-ish.”
Right from the first shot, it’s clear that “The Nightly Show” is different from its predecessors, “The Colbert Report” and “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.” “The Nightly Show’s” set is an update on Colbert’s and Stewart’s, although it does have the same red and blue theme. The large table in the center is new, but required for the show’s panel format. On the wall are clocks that show times from important places, including Pompeii, East St. Louis and Obama’s birthplace (which shows the time in Hawaii).
The graphics, which display, annoyingly, in the bottom left corner of the screen as opposed to the traditional, top right-hand box, are not as creative as those of the other two shows, and they are a bit hard to see against the dark background. Still, overall, the set is fitting for the show.
Wilmore seems nervous when he first steps on set at “The Nightly Show,” with his shoulders up a bit tight and his hands clenched around his note cards. His initial opening one-liners are solid, but the delivery feels a bit reminiscent of “The Soup” and other cheesy entertainment talk-shows.
Despite the slow start, when Wilmore gets into the longer bits, he really starts to shine. He does a nice job of interacting with the audience, and, although he is clearly still nervous, he looks much more comfortable here than he did earlier. His choice of topic, which focuses mostly on race and diversity, is daring and different, and it shows the potential for serious discussions that his new show has.
Previously titled “The Minority Report,” before an upcoming FOX pilot forced them to change it, the show focuses on underrepresented voices in television. The first night’s guests, rapper Talib Kweli, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker and actor/comedian Bill Burr, along with contributor Shenaz Treasury, helped to facilitate that theme by bringing a variety of different perspectives to the show’s new panel format, a big departure from “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report’s” traditional one-guest format.
The panel brings something new and different to “The Nightly Show,” and I think that it is one of the show’s greatest assets. The brunt of “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report” was on their hosts, which works because of the immense talent of Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. However, bringing in multiple guests each night takes some of the pressure off Wilmore and allows for more variety in the viewpoints being presented.
The show also ended with a great nightly segment called “Keep It 100,” where guests were asked a question that they had to answer 100 percent honestly. Those who succeeded got a sticker, while those who failed (like Booker, when he was asked if he wanted to be president), got weak tea. Wilmore also participated, saying that he will be answering a Twitter question from a viewer each night. The segment was original and new, and it brought a little bit more laughter into a show that did, at times, get heavy.
“The Nightly Show” still needs a bit of work—Wilmore doesn’t seem entirely comfortable in front of the camera yet, and the panel format still needs a bit more fleshing out. However, the show is a welcome addition to the Comedy Central line-up, and, with a little time to grow, it should turn into something great.