On the Nightly

The Nightly Show

So let's talk the Nightly Show. It's three episodes into the run and while the creators (Larry Willmore and his staff of writers) are clearly still feeling out the format, the show has already established itself enough for us to be able form a judgment.

In general the show really works. Let's all be honest -- The Colbert Report is a hard act to follow, especially at the end of it's run when Colbert clearly stopped giving a fuck and just started having fun. The show ended at the top of its game and any show taking over its slow was going to have a hard time filling the void Colbert left behind. Even @midnight suffered in the slot just because we all wanted a specific kind of show after The Daily Show each night, and @midnight is more fluff than serious. Colbert struck just the right chord, so a true replacement had to find that voice, find a balance between serious "news" and comedic fluff, and find it fast.

The Nightly Show isn't quite able to do that just yet, but part of that is the format (and the things they need to tweak still). If any show could act as a true successor to Colbert it would be Last Week Tonight over on HBO (which I realize isn't a true successor since it started before Colbert ended, but follow me). That's another creator driven show with a clear, solid voice that knows exactly what it wants to be and yet is still willing to have fun. Seriously, they had a salmon cannon. They know how to balance serious and fluff.

But The Nightly Show will find its feet, that much is clear. Larry Willmore is a great host -- his monologues (so long as he doesn't try to have someone interact with him) are solid, funny yet largely informative, and the set the right tone for the show to follow. The fact that the show only tackles one topic at a time is a good choice -- it evokes a Last Week Tonight feel, going in depth on a subject without bouncing around. That's a smart move because it gives the show needed focus.

The second part of the show, the panel discussion, is also largely working. Like any show with a diverse set of guests interacting, you're going to have better and worse groups, so the charisma of the guests has more to do with if an episode works than the topics being covered (or he format). Thankfully the creators seem to have figured out a good way to make sure the panel discussion stays snappy and on-topic: record a bunch of it and then edit the discussion down to the best parts. You can see the seams occasionally (it's early in the run, so they may get the editing better down the road), but this means we don't have the same issues that a show like Real Time does -- a bad panel with bad questions can derail that show, making episodes all but unwatchable.

For me, the biggest issue with The Nightly Show is just that the panel discussion isn't long enough -- and since this is the meat of the program, this is a good problem to have. They're leaving us wanting more of what the show does best, now they just have to find a way to give us what we want. It's the third part of the show, the amusing but superfluous "Keep it 100" segment, that could easily be scrapped. While the answers are usually funny, the bit gets in the way of more discussion about the relevant topics the panelists are discussing. They could ditch "Keep it 100", add more real discussion, and then have the little tag at the end (Larry's Moment of Keeping it 100) and the show would be better for it.

But, regardless of if they tweak the format or not, it's clear that The Nightly Show will grow to be a solid successor to Colbert. Combining what works from Last Week Tonight and Real Time, Nightly is zippy, informative, and well produced. Well worth adding to your nightly watching schedule (wedged right in between Daily and @midnight).

(Editor's Note: Of course, then a year later the Nightly Show was cancelled. You filled a gap that was sorely needed and we're sad to see you go.)