The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore Monday-Thursday, 11:30 p.m., Comedy Central.
The Nightly Show’s Larry Wilmore faces a monumental task in taking over Stephen Colbert’s post-Daily Show time slot on Comedy Central, but he’s proved up to it so far. Rather than replacing Colbert’s mock-right-wing pundit with another cable-news character, Nightly continues in the vein of Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show (Stewart is an executive producer), with Wilmore, a veteran comedian and writer and former Daily contributor, offering his comedic take on the day’s headlines. While Daily is the equivalent of a general news program, Nightly (which was originally titled The Minority Report) focuses primarily on issues of race, and each episode is built around a single topic.
Like Stewart, Wilmore is good at using jokes to cut down overblown public figures, and he isn’t afraid to be self-deprecating. His opening monologue is typically the best part of the show, and he never hesitates to speak his mind on the topic of the day (within seconds of introducing the rape allegations against Bill Cosby as the second episode’s subject, Wilmore unequivocally stated his belief in Cosby’s guilt). The shakiest part of the show during its first week has been the middle panel-discussion segment, which features a mix of comedians and political commentators talking about the episode’s topic.
Bill Maher used the same format to great effect for years on Politically Incorrect (and uses a similar format on his current HBO show, Real Time), but as a single segment on a half-hour show, Nightly’s panel discussion doesn’t allow enough time for real interaction among panelists, who generally promote their main talking points once or twice and then fade into the background as Wilmore moves on to the next panelist. A smaller group of people or a longer amount of time might make the segment more substantive and rewarding.
As with any show airing four nights a week, Nightly will have time to develop and adjust, and the important thing is that Wilmore is a confident host, funny and engaged with the subject matter. Given the overwhelming whiteness of late-night TV, Nightly provides a much-needed alternative perspective; the rest, presumably, will work itself out over time.