While ‘The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore’ is a work in progress, its potential lies in how different it could be.
As connoisseurs of “fake news”, we have been spoiled rotten. Ever since Jon Stewart became the captain that would steer ‘The Daily Show’ into becoming a television institution, anything spun-off from that comedy lineage – ‘The Colbert Report’ and ‘Last Week Tonight with John Oliver’ – were from their conceptions fully-formed shows. While minor changes would be made to these shows from week-to-week, their foundations were already set. ‘The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore’ – the most recent branch from ‘The Daily Show’ family tree – however is different.
‘The Nightly Show’ is different for a multitude of reasons. It’s the first show from ‘The Daily Show’ lineage that has a black host, Larry Wilmore. It’s the first show that doesn’t look to be a monologue/interview show format (where the host tells jokes in front of the camera for two segments, then in the third interviews that night’s guest). It’s a show that is trying so hard not to be anything like ‘The Daily Show’ – or its respective spin-offs – that it’s still very much rough around its edges and honestly will take time to figure itself out. It also has the potential to become something entirely different in an arena where more-and-more “fake news” shows are increasingly becoming the same.
The format of ‘The Nightly Show’ is similar to ‘Real Time with Bill Maher’. In the start of every show, Wilmore does a monologue to introduce the topic in which the show will feature that evening. The second and third segments of the show revolve around a panel format in which four guests, along with Wilmore, try to have a free-flowing discussion on that specific topic.
It’s an interesting (and smart) idea to take a single topic and expound on that for an entire episode. My biggest criticism of ‘Real Time’ – other than Maher’s deeply Islamophobic comments – is that the topics move at such a rapid pace, the nuances of the various opinions from the panelists get lost. Luckily ‘The Nightly Show’ sidesteps that problem. Similar to how ‘Last Week Tonight’ goes deeper into the topics they discuss, ‘The Nightly Show’ cribs a similar philosophy so the audience gets a better understanding of the unique opinions surrounding that topic.
Also, in a point that can’t be stressed enough, having a black host is a major deal! The perspective of ‘The Nightly Show’ changes greatly with Wilmore at the helm. While the topics of conversation look to be common fodder for many late-night shows, the perspective (and how openly) they talk about these topics should eventually separate themselves from anyone else. The “Keep It 100” segment alone is intriguing because it uses leverage from the audience and Wilmore to get genuine answers to some tough questions directed at the panelists. While it would be hard to see prominent politicians or celebrities be part of a ‘The Nightly Show’ panel going forward, it oddly enough crates a safe atmosphere for guests to chime in on topics many would rather shy away from.
With all that said, ‘The Nightly Show’ is still in the process of finding its footing. The one key element of a panel show that Maher has perfected in ‘Real Time’ is the ability to keep conversation continuously flowing between him and his panelists. Wilmore still has much to learn in that department. Panel segments, while interesting, feel sluggish at times with Wilmore awkwardly transitioning can make talks feel disjointed.
Then again it’s only been four shows. Considering ‘The Nightly Show’ gets so much right while breaking away from the monologue/interview format, it’s hard not to see the show succeeding.
Reviewer’s Take: ‘The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore’ has a few rough edges that are definitely noticeable, but with the show getting so much of it right in the first four episodes, don’t be surprised if it becomes must-watch TV in the next couple of months.
(Photo Credit: Comedy Central – The Nightly Show)