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After Midnight, the Emmys, and the State of Late Night

This was a weird week for late-night television. Most shows were off on MLK Day/Emmys night (still a weird combo), and a whole new show premiered as well. The Emmys had a category shake-up, and due to the joint strike delaying the whole shebang, the ceremony took place the day after the Critics Choice Awards instead of months before. That means Last Week Tonight got two victory laps in the same week. Plus The Daily Show teased …something. To paraphrase The Amber Ruffin Show, it’s been a crazy week in late night. Let’s find out what happened.

After Midnight’s Soft Launch

After Midnight debuted on January 17, and it was almost upsettingly similar to @midnight. It’s like the show is Dorian Gray, and we’re the painting that got old. The final game is still called FTW, which took years off my life when I saw it. But on the whole, funny people saying funny things is still funny. Will the show be bad once non-comedy celebs are doing the quipping? Unclear! Taylor Tomlinson is settling into her hosting role nicely. She does a really good job transitioning from reading teleprompter to ad libbing with guests. That’s a hard skill to pick up! She also excels at laughing at the guests’ jokes. I wonder how much of the vetting process was just seeing who could sustain a fake laugh the longest. Also? Having the losing contestant do a Notes App apology is a nice touch.

One of the first jokes in After Midnight was a referendum on late night itself. Kurt Braunohler said Tomlinson would win the Emmy for “Only Female Late-Night Host,” which is quite the ******. Hopefully The Amber Ruffin Show will come back. Also, maybe The Daily Show could go to a woman? But it does seem like talk shows have been gender segregated by time slot: Girls go to daytime; boys go late. As we saw with the strike, that has real consequences. The budgets are different, and daytime shows are less likely to be union. Even the union ones were pressured to break the picket line. Speaking of daytime talk shows …

Awards! Awards! Awards!

The Critics Choice Awards and the Primetime Emmys were on back-to-back days. Last Week Tonight With John Oliver won at both shows, but against very different competitors. At the Critics Choice Awards, Oliver’s show was up against Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Late Night With Seth Meyers, and The Late Show With Stephen Colbert. But there were two outliers on the ballot: The Graham Norton Show (British) and The Kelly Clarkson Show (daytime). The critics like “Kellyoke” enough to nominate Clarkson, but not enough to give her a statuette. On the Emmys, Last Week was up against Saturday Night Live and A Black Lady Sketch Show. That’s because it was no longer in the Outstanding Variety Talk Series category but rather in Outstanding Variety Sketch Series. Many thought SNL would take it, but they underestimated Emmy voters love for mascots.

The Daily Show took Outstanding Variety Talk Series, which Oliver discussed with Kimmel on Tuesday night. Kimmel said that he and the other network hosts used to kvetch about losing to Oliver despite not really doing the same thing. “And then they moved you out of our category,” he said to Oliver. “Guess what? We all lost again.” Through gloating laughter, Oliver replied, “At least when I was there, there was an excuse, and you all could think you were second.” Now they know they’re third, tops.

What’s Going on With The Daily Show?

Maybe Comedy Central took Roy Wood Jr.’s cry for help seriously, because they made an announcement … 🙂 That they’d be announcing something next week … 🙁

The specific wording was that they’d be announcing “our plans for The Daily Show’s next chapter,” which, famously, are different words than “The Daily Show’s next permanent host.” Will there never be a permanent host? Will the correspondents take over and share the responsibility? That could be fun. Personally, the hosts I’ve enjoyed the most have been Leslie Jones and Dulcé Sloan, because they really changed the vibe of the show. They were propulsive hosts, shifting the balance of power between host and correspondent. Jon Stewart and Trevor Noah often played the voice of reason in sketches, but Jones just yelled the entire time. That was a nice change of pace. Rather than someone dressing up in Dad’s clothes, it felt like a new suit had been tailored to them.

The Reneé Rapp Press Offensive

Finally, Reneé Rapp has been on one while promoting Mean Girls telling Andy Cohen she’s proudly ageist, calling out some dude named Buddy, and generally being a menace. The only person who can soothe the beast is Seth Meyers. She’s like a whole different person on Late Night, holding hands with Meyers and telling him he’s allowed to say “TikTok hos.” Get her day drinking, stat.


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