Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Weak Tea

I recently saw at the A.V. Club how Larry Wilmore's program the Nightly Show is being cancelled. Comments from readers at the site can be largely summed up as, "I'm disappointed, but then again I stopped watching the show."

At the time of its launch, I was quite interested in the Nightly Show. I hadn't watched much of its predecessor the Colbert Report in the years prior to its end, but having enjoyed Wilmore on the Daily Show I wanted to see his program succeed. Further, the format of the show - a panel discussion - initially impressed me. In the past I had tried to watch Bill Maher's Politically Incorrect because his panelists would frequently have compelling points-of-view - but I gave up on Maher's show because all too often there would be panelists who only wanted to mug for the camera and had nothing to contribute, thus dragging down the whole enterprise.

But at first I thought the Nightly Show would sidestep that problem; early panelists seemed to be composed by experts on the subjects at hand, rather than being filled out with celebrities. Sure, some of Wilmore's own staff of comedians seldom had worthwhile ideas to share on the panel, but on the balance it was working for me.

It all came down in what - for me - was "the notorious Alex Wagner episode." The subject for the panel was centered on the Boston Marathon bomber. Wilmore started off on a troubling note by stating they wouldn't be arguing about the death penalty because he was in favour of it in this case. Wagner was noticeably put out by that declaration. As a follow-up, a comedian on the panel then joked the bomber should be given a sex change then raped. He thought it was so funny he repeated it several times. Wagner was not amused and when the show went to commercial, she vanished. Wilmore made it sound like this had been planned in advance.

Enraged by this episode - feeling it a betrayal of the supposed-liberal viewpoint the Stewart/Colbert/Wilmore programs had shared and that it had indulged to the same "most outrageous commenter wins the debate" tactics of Politically Incorrect, I went online to find others who shared my outrage. But I found practically nothing. When Colbert or Stewart upset their fans, you could count on left-wingers wringing their hands or right-wingers shaking their fingers. I saw no such response to the Nightly Show. And why was that? Because that show did not matter.

For me the show ended more than a year ago. I'm certain Wilmore will come out of this okay. And yet, I have to admit to feeling a sense of vindictiveness. I loathed what he allowed to happen in that episode and if this cancellation had happened then, I'd be cheering. Thus, here I've unleashed these feelings I've bottled up; as the show moves on, so shall I.

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