By Frazier Moore
NEW YORK — Comedy Central’s “The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore” is coming to an end.
The late-night humor and talk show, which premiered in January 2015, will conclude its run Thursday, the network announced Monday.
The program, which filled the slot vacated by Stephen Colbert when he jumped to CBS, sought to explore current events and larger life issues as presided over by Wilmore, who previously had served as “senior black correspondent” on “The Daily Show.”
But audience acceptance of “The Nightly Show” never approached its “Daily Show” lead-in, neither during the regime of Jon Stewart nor that of his successor, Trevor Noah, who took over last September.
Comedy Central president Kent Alterman praised Wilmore and his team for “crafting a platform for underrepresented voices.” He said the show had steadily improved, “but unfortunately it hasn’t resonated with the audience in a way that it would need to for us to continue.”
While this year’s second quarter found “The Daily Show” beaten only by NBC’s “The Tonight Show” in adults 18-to-34, logging 278,000 viewers, “The Nightly Show” retained little more than half that audience, according to Nielsen.
In the past, Wilmore wrote for “In Living Color” and “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.” He created “The Bernie Mac Show” (for which he shared a Peabody Award) and with Eddie Murphy co-created the animated series “The PJs.” He is a creator of the upcoming HBO comedy “Insecure,” starring Issa Rae, which premieres in October.
Two years ago, he was set to be the executive producer of ABC’s new sitcom “black-ish” before opting instead to host “The Nightly Show.” But there, he had big shoes to fill.
Colbert, who, like Wilmore, began his late-night run on “The Daily Show,” won a show of his own in 2005, produced by Stewart, as Comedy Central’s late-night franchise expanded into the 11:30 p.m. ET half-hour. His departure in late 2014 to host CBS’ “The Late Show” was much-mourned by his devoted fans who continue to miss the bloviating commentator persona he displayed on “The Colbert Report.”
With the end of “The Nightly Show,” which, Stewart also produced, Comedy Central’s internet-based game show, “@Midnight with Chris Hardwick,” will air a half-hour earlier. Its current midnight slot will be filled by repeats of other Comedy Central shows.
“I’m really grateful to Comedy Central, Jon Stewart, and our fans to have had this opportunity,” Wilmore said in a statement. “But I’m also saddened and surprised we won’t be covering this crazy election, or ‘The Unblackening,’ as we’ve coined it. … I guess I hadn’t counted on “The Unblackening” happening to my time slot as well.”
Though the end of “The Nightly Show” eliminates a rare black-hosted program from the mainstream airwaves, Alterman dismissed any suggestion that race played a role in the show’s ratings failure or that a minority host might not be considered in the future.
Said Alterman conclusively, “We’re all in with Trevor Noah,” who is black.
“We feel so solid about Trevor and what ‘The Daily Show’s’ doing,” he elaborated, and noting that, at 32, Noah is a millennial “and native to the social media, multi-platform landscape,” declared that total views of “The Daily Show” across all platforms from Noah’s premiere until now are up 22 percent from what they were a year ago with Stewart as host.
As for what will permanently follow “The Daily Show,” Alterman said the network would be in no hurry to launch a replacement.
“We’re just gonna begin development and see where we go,” he said.
And in response to past criticism aimed at Comedy Central, as with other networks that have largely stuck with men in hosting roles, Alterman said women, too, would be considered to headline the new show.
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