*Call it “The Unblackening” of Comedy Central.
A year and a half after introducing Larry Wilmore’s series “The Nightly Show” to fill the timeslot vacated by Stephen Colbert, the network has decided to cancel the series.
“Unfortunately, it hasn’t connected with our audience in ways that we need it to,” Comedy Central president Kent Alterman tells The Hollywood Reporter, “both in the linear channel and in terms of multi-platform outlets and with shareable content and on social platforms as well.”
The last episode is slated to run Thursday, with the Viacom-owned network planning to slot in Chris Hardwick’s game show “@Midnight” at 11:30 p.m. until a permanent replacement is found, according to THR.
The half-hour late-night panel show brought diverse voices into late night, initially with the powerhouse lead in of “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart.” In the many months since, however, Wilmore lost Stewart as his opener and instead follows another black voice in new “Daily Show” host Trevor Noah.
Wilmore, who announced the cancellation to his staff early this morning, didn’t hide his disappointment. “I’m really grateful to Comedy Central, Jon Stewart, and our fans to have had this opportunity,” he says in a statement to THR, leaning on his “Keeping it 100” mantra as he continued: “But I’m also saddened and surprised we won’t be covering this crazy election or ‘The Unblackening’ as we’ve coined it. And keeping it 100, I guess I hadn’t counted on ‘The Unblackening’ happening to my time slot as well.”
The timing — after two seasons or, as of Thursday, 259 episodes — is believed to have come down to contractual logistics. Comedy Central is said to have been faced with a looming decision to sign Wilmore and what insiders say amounted to be about 15 members of the Nightly Show’s on- and off-screen staff to new contracts. But with the series averaging a particularly grim night-of rating of 0.2 in the 18-49 demo, for instance, doing so was hard to justify.
“We just didn’t feel like we had enough traction to sign up for another year. It wasn’t about the election; it’s about another year of the show,” Alterman adds. “Sadly, we’ve been hoping against hope that it would start to resonate in any of those quarters and we just weren’t seeing evidence of it. As much as we like Larry and the uniqueness of the show and the voices that are on the show — not just in terms of ratings — it hasn’t resonated in terms of our fans engaging with show with consuming or sharing content or having a dialogue about it on social platforms.”
Alterman insists he remains fiercely committed to Noah, however, who is now the only prominent black voice in late night. In fact, he downplayed the franchise’s ratings and critical drop-off, suggesting any early stumbles are akin to what Stewart faced when he took over for predecessor Craig Kilborn many years earlier. Despite an only slightly rosier night-of rating of 0.3 in the 18-49 demo, the network has been focused on Noah’s reach among a younger subset, both on TV and online, as well as his ability to create moments that travel beyond the show. “Trevor has been resonating increasingly,” says Alterman, adding that Noah has reached a “plateau” in his voice leading into and after the political conventions: “All of the original shows that we shot at the conventions were so strong, and they really resonated with our fans.”