The cancellation of The Nightly Show shouldn't be all that shocking

I still remember when Comedy Central announced the launch of The Nightly Show starring Larry Wilmore, replacing Steven Colbert’s show when he moved on to a network television gig. I was pretty excited about it. While many of our readers have seemed puzzled (if not outright hostile) about the fact that I used to watch The Daily Show and related fare on the network, my wife and I made a point of watching on a regular basis. (Yes, the fact that I did the show a couple of times and got to meet some of the correspondents didn’t hurt.) I’m generally able to enjoy comedy, even when it skewers conservatives on a regular basis, providing it’s at least somewhat balanced with other types of material and it’s well done. But those days have passed and things haven’t been nearly on the same level of quality for a while now. In what may be a sign of the times, the network just announced that Wilmore’s show has been cancelled. Larry is blaming it on the “unblackening of Comedy Central,” but as I’ll explain below, that didn’t have much to do with it at all. (Hollywood Reporter)

It’s the end of the road for Larry Wilmore’s Comedy Central series The Nightly Show.

The decision comes a year and a half after rolling out the half-hour late-night panel show as a forum for underrepresented points of view. The last episode is slated to run Thursday, with the Viacom-owned network planning to slot in Chris Hardwick’s game show @Midnight at 11:30 p.m. until a permanent replacement is found. In explaining the decision, Comedy Central president Kent Alterman says it came down to its inability to register with viewers.

“Unfortunately, it hasn’t connected with our audience in ways that we need it to,” Alterman tells The Hollywood Reporter, “both in the linear channel and in terms of multi-platform outlets and with shareable content and on social platforms as well.”

I can’t say I’m shocked. I genuinely liked Wilmore when he was on The Daily Show. I felt he was one of the strongest comedic personalities on there, particularly during his interviews with Jon Stewart as “The Daily Show Black Correspondent.” He actually seemed underutilized to me during that period. So when he got his own show we began watching immediately. And almost just as rapidly I realized that it wasn’t going to be appointment TV in our household. The beauty of the old Daily Show (before the wheels came off when they signed on Trevor Noah) was that they combined political humor – largely skewed to a liberal audience, but hitting both sides regularly enough – with plenty of other topics cut from the spectrum of American life. It was a nice mix and it provided something for even conservatives to like if you could sit through the frequent crops of Bush Blame Humor.

The Nightly Show was nothing like that. It was a straight up, sarcastic promotional channel for the Democrats and Social Justice Warriors. At least for the period that I was watching, there was nothing else. One sledgehammer after another, and on the rare occasions when there was an ostensibly conservative voice on their roundtable segments, they were drowned out and shoved into irrelevance. It was monotone where The Daily Show, in its heyday, had been a broad spectrum of flavors. Much the same thing happened with Samantha Bee’s transition to her new show on TBS. She was a fantastic correspondent on TDS (and the one I did my first segment with) but when she moved to TBS she may has well have let Debbie Wasserman-Schultz guest host it for her.

In the end, I think that’s what’s dooming the current crop of shows. They’ve driven away people like myself who might not agree with much of their politics but used to find enough other great material to come along for the ride. Now it’s a boring assembly line of one “joke” after another about how terrible Republicans are. Even the liberals don’t seem to be finding it as funny anymore because you can only hear the same set of insults so many times before it gets monotonous. Their ratings are proof of the results from that recipe. So it’s not shocking that Wilmore is gone, and I won’t really be surprised if The Daily Show either follows it down the tubes soon or retools with a new host and a refreshed formula.