TV Review - The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore

Comparisons have been made to Politically Incorrect or subsequently Real Time with Bill Maher in that this is a comedian doing round-table discussions of issues in the news. Larry Wilmore doesn't quite have the bite of Bill Maher, but he's cool to watch.

Wilmore's show fills the void that Stephen Colbert recently left. The Colbert Report ran from 2005 to 2014 and at times bested The Daily Show with Jon Stewart on which Colbert started. Wilmore was similarly a correspondent on The Daily Show, but Wilmore isn't playing a character here. He isn't doing satire or skits, at least not in this first week. He does have a point-of-view. He's black and all of the issues he tackles relate to African-Americans or other minorities. Originally, the show was going to be called The Minority Report.

This is in itself a great move as the past year or two has shown a significant shift in the number and level of TV shows with predominantly black or diverse casts. Wilmore even helped to create the sitcom Black-ish on ABC, which is currently a hit for that broadcast network. How to Get Away with Murder on ABC, Being Mary Jane on BET and now Empire on FOX have all diversified the TV landscape.

If you've not heard of Larry Wilmore, he has an impressive résumé. He doesn't reveal much about himself right away. Hopefully, he will as the weeks and months go on, but he was born in October 1961 in Los Angeles. He is a comedian and has done some acting work, but he mainly worked as a writer and producer on many sitcoms for 25 years now. Ironically, he got his start on a late night talk show in 1990. Wilmore is credited on IMDB as a writer for Into the Night with Rick Dees.

Wilmore was nominated for 3 Emmy Awards. His first was in 1992. He was up for Outstanding Writing in a Variety or Music Program for In Living Color. From that, he got gigs on some of the best sitcoms, not only for black people but for everyone. He worked for Sister Sister in 1994, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air in 1995 and The Jamie Foxx Show in 1996. Wilmore was Emmy-nominated for Outstanding Animated Program for creating The PJs in 1999. He was nominated again for creating The Bernie Mac Show. He won that nomination and took home his first and only Emmy for Outstanding Writing in 2002. He became a correspondent for The Daily Show in 2006.

His new show as host or anchor premiered on Monday, January 19, 2015. Wilmore had a great joke at the top of having to work on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. The show looks like it's filmed in the same studio as The Colbert Report. Like that series and The Daily Show, there's three segments. The first has Wilmore doing a similar shtick as Jon Stewart. He comments on the news or certain headlines, providing a somewhat fresh black perspective. He doesn't come out the gate swinging. He's rather tame, witty but again not with too much bite.

The second segment is the panel of four doing a brief round-table discussion. Based on the first week of these panels, so far there's only been one person each day who is interesting or compelling or seemingly controversial. The first day was white comedian Bill Burr who challenged if the recent protests like the ones in Ferguson were effective. The second day had Keith Robinson side and support Bill Cosby when everyone including Wilmore condemned Cosby as guilty. Hopefully, this segment continues to bring in these people to be controversial because it's been the only interesting thing about the show.

The third segment is called "Keep It 100" in which Wilmore asks his panel one question and the questions seem designed to prompt or provoke the panelists into giving racy or comical responses. They're actually topic-related "Would You Rather" options. For example, in Wednesday, January 21's episode, Wilmore, following the State of the Union speech, asks a panelist who is a staunch supporter of President Barack Obama if that panelist would have voted for Obama back in 2008, if like in House of Cards, that panelist had realized that Obama had murdered someone. It's funny, but in a way still feels rather tame.

On Tuesday, January 20's episode, Wilmore had a contributor named Mike Yard and Yard's aggression and militancy were a better approach at moments. Yard has a kind of fire that Wilmore doesn't. There's simply no edge to Wilmore. He's more round and cuddly, but it's good to have a black face in late night television.

Three Stars out of Five.
Rated TV-14.
Running Time: 30 mins.
Airs Monday to Thursday at 11:30PM.


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