The end of the road has come for The Nightly Show, which was canceled Monday (Aug. 15) by cable network Comedy Central.
In a statement to the New York Times Monday morning, Comedy Central President Kent Alterman said the ratings simply weren’t there and the cancellation of The Nightly Show was purely a business decision.
“Even though we’ve given it a year and a half, we’ve been hoping against hope that it would start to click with our audience, but it hasn’t happened and we’ve haven’t seen evidence of it happening,” the Times reported Alterman as saying.
There was a lot of lead up to The Nightly Show before its debut and now cancelation. The host, Larry Wilmore, had previously served as a correspondent on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and was tapped to take over the 11:30 p.m. ET time slot previously occupied by Stephen Colbert’s The Colbert Report. Colbert left the Report to host The Late Show following David Letterman’s retirement from CBS.
In responding to the news that The Nightly Show had been canceled, Wilmore provided some tongue-in-cheek humor, according to Deadline, which quoted Wilmore as saying he was surprised the cancellation of Nightly had happened before the conclusion of the 2016 presidential election.
“‘I’m really grateful to Comedy Central, Jon Stewart, and our fans to have had this opportunity, but I’m also saddened and surprised we won’t be covering this crazy election, or ‘The Unblackening’ as we’ve coined it,” Wilmore said. “And keeping it 100, I guess I hadn’t counted on ‘The Unblackening’ happening to my time slot as well.”
Deadline reports that Wilmore’s ratings had suffered greatly with the move of not only Colbert to CBS, but also with the retirement of Stewart from The Daily Show. Both combined to make it nearly impossible for The Nightly Show to succeed before its announced cancellation this morning.
“The Nightly Show‘s largest live audience was during its first two weeks on the air, 885,000,” Deadline said. “With The Daily Show with Jon Stewart as a lead-in, The Nightly Show averaged between 600,000-800,000 live viewers; following the lower-rated Daily Show with Trevor Noah, its average was 400,000-550,00o.”
With the lower-rated audience and a large writing staff putting on a show each evening, the economics did not add up, which is why Comedy Central decided to cancel The Nightly Show, according to Alterman. A contributing factor, according to Deadline was the timing of contract renewals with not only Larry Wilmore, but many on- and off-screen staff at the show. To wait any longer would have meant pouring more money into a show that appeared to not be turning a profit, or enough of one, for the network which had seen ratings gold with both Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert at the helm.
One thing many assumed would help Wilmore’s ratings was his recent gig hosting the White House Correspondent’s Association Dinner, but it went off the rails early on. Not only did his jokes not resonate with the Washington press corps, but he was roundly criticized for referring to President Barack Obama as the n-word to wrap up his speech. Wilmore said he did not mean anything by it and the president has not criticized Wilmore, but much of the media did and the ratings boost one would expect after a widely-televised event never materialized.
As for the timeslot, Deadline reports that the comedy game show “@Midnight” will fill the 11:30 p.m. time slot for the time being, though the show’s title will stay the same. The show previously filled earlier time slots after Stewart and Colbert’s retirements. Alterman was reported by the Times as saying a hunt to replace the now-canceled Nightly Show would begin immediately.
The last episode of The Nightly Show will air Thursday, Aug. 18, at 11:30 p.m. on Comedy Central.
[Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images]