Tuesday, August 16, 2016

We'll miss you, Larry

Larry Wilmore's Nightly Show has been cancelled by Comedy Central. The network's president said that the show really wasn't capturing an audience, either live, DVR-delayed or online.

I can't be too bitter about the cancellation — not without being a complete hypocrite, anyway. Although I said I might keep checking out his show, I mostly didn't: I relished too much the hour I recovered after giving up on the late-night variety shows.

Yet I feel bad for Wilmore. Unlike Trevor Noah, Wilmore actually has given a shit about his show and the subjects it covers. He has provided an important and unique perspective in the late-night universe and he has featured guests no one else has. Wilmore took a risk in addressing so directly the contentious issue of structural racism in American society.

He is also an unapologetic geek and promoter of scientific literacy. In that, his only competitor is Colbert. However, Colbert is known more for being a cultural geek (Tolkien, the Bible, etc.); Wilmore, though, is a space nerd. One of my favorite Nightly Show bits was Wilmore's "book club in space" with Buzz Aldrin. You could see the light of the true fan shining from Wilmore's eyes. It was delightful. In this age of rampant anti-intellectualism, we need all the science geeks we can get.

Perhaps most admirably, Wilmore hasn't been afraid to be thoughtful. Wilmore talks to his guests and correspondents, and not just in the standard six-questions-on-a-blue-card rhythm that is the M.O. for every other weeknight host. He actually has listened and responded to people in a way that makes both him and his guests human.

Yeah, I'm singing Wilmore's praises more effusively than I did in March. However, back then, I assumed that The Daily Show and The Nightly Show were destined for lengthy runs. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had been more enthusiastic about Wilmore.

In the end, I get why Comedy Central pulled the plug: The Nightly Show has neither ratings nor buzz. For better or worse, the network has bet on The Daily Show (and @ Midnight) to carry its late-night banner. I think the network has made a bad bet. At least now, though, I don't have to feel bad that I'm not letting Wilmore school me.

I hope Wilmore gets another chance to give us his take on current events, this time in a format that does him justice.

In the meantime, so long and thanks for all the fish, Larry. Best of luck to you.

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