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First Reaction: The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore

One of the most impressive feats by The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (other than their run of consecutive Emmy wins) has been the show’s ability to launch successful spin offs for many of its former contributors. Stephen Colbert received his own late night show that garnered critical acclaim and multiple Emmy Awards while he arguably supplanted his pal Stewart as the king of fake news. Meanwhile recent Daily Show alum John Oliver has received major buzz from audiences, critics, and journalists alike with his weekly late night program on HBO.

Now that Stephen Colbert can begin preparations to take over for David Letterman, Comedy Central’s flagship program will now lead into a new spin-off that the network hopes will emulate the same success as its predecessor.

Last night The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore made its debut on Comedy Central, taking the 11:30 pm ET slot once occupied by The Colbert Report. Longtime fans of The Daily Show are very familiar with Wilmore, who was a frequent gust contributor and dubbed “Senior Black Correspondent” by Jon Stewart. He’s a funny individual and understands the demands of the format, so its no surprise he was picked to fill the new void left by Colbert’s departure.

And as a first show goes, Wilmore had successes and a few hiccups.

Viewers who are fans of his dark, blunt comedy were not disappointed. His zingers had zing while the wit that made him popular was on full display. It is nice to see a program where it is all about him. His punchlines were spot on during the first act, as it seems like he has assembled a very capable writing staff that understands his humor. It may not be a complete reinvention of the format, but he looks capable and comfortable nonetheless.

The second act was a little rockier. As had been circulating in the months leading up to The Nightly Show’s debut, Wilmore chaired a roundtable discussion with four guest panelists. It felt like an odd mix of Comics Unleashed and the weekly Sunday roundtable discussion from This Week. It seemed that Wilmore and guests alike were less comfortable in a segment that felt a bit jumbled. Even the camera angles throughout the discussion were a bit off, with many awkward shots of people’s backs and nonverbal expressions.

This is the part of the format that needs more adjustment. Obviously the success of this act of The Nightly Show is heavily dependent on the guests, but for now it’s a work in progress should get better with time. Wilmore and his writers should be able to adapt questions and direction to give the segment more structure.

The final act was a bit in which Wilmore posed a single closed question to each of his panelists with the stipulation that they “keep it real.” The questions were fairly entertaining, eliciting some harsh but funny answers that are all in line of Wilmore’s humor, and the punishment of having “weak tea” thrown at you for giving an answer that does not meet the audiences’ approval is pretty hilarious. In comparison, the reward for “keeping it real” is an underwhelming square sticker with the name of the bit printed on the front. A bit like this needs a more comical reward, but otherwise has great potential.

All in all, it was not a bad first night. This is less of a review and more of first reaction to the program. The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore is in its infancy and the first night jitters are over. As time goes on, the show will find its voice and settle into its style. Wilmore should be proud of how his first night went and look at the positives. While some bumps occasionally popped up existed, they were few they were few in number and will iron out with time and practice.

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Aaron Zamora

Aaron grew up in Whittier, California and is currently finishing his master's degree in Human Communication studies from California State University, Fullerton. His interest in journalism began in high school where he served as the Editor-in-Chief for his school’s newspaper and participated in their inaugural broadcast journalism program. An avid world traveler, Aaron has a wide array of interest that include a passion for cinema and television. He is also a sports fanatic.

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