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With the return of Jon Stewart and the “After Midnight” show, the end of the night is slowly evolving

With the return of Jon Stewart and the “After Midnight” show, the end of the night is slowly evolving


Change is slowly coming to late night television. Talk show hosts hold their seats for years and, by and large, only leave when they're ready.

After spending nearly a year and a half not deciding on the replacement of Trevor Noah, its host since 2015, The Daily Show once again turned to Jon Stewart. Stewart, 61, who chaired the show for 16 years, will this week become the regular host of the Monday night program, as well as executive producer. (Guest hosts and Daily Show correspondents will fill the rest of the week.) His impact on “This Can't Be Happening” may be just what this absurd year needs, he expects. it persists until the presidential election, but it remains to be seen whether this step back is a step forward, or a step forward that is just a step back.

Meanwhile, on CBS, the major broadcast network where James Corden left The Late Late Show after eight years, talented young comedian Taylor Tomlinson, 30, has been named his successor, at least in terms of taking over the show. time slot. It seemed good news to me when I heard it, both for its youth, the torch having passed to a new generation, and for its entire sex: you can count the number of women who have hosted late-night shows on the networks on the fingers of one hand. (Cable and streaming platforms have also seen female hosts, but only Chelsea Handlers Chelsea Lately and Samantha Bees Full Frontal have had any sort of life.) I couldn't wait to see what she would do with the medium.

A game show host stands behind a podium and watches three contestants.

After Midnight host Taylor Tomlinson, left, with Nico Santos, Billy Eichner and Pete Holmes. The show is a reboot of Comedy Centrals @midnight, which features a guest panel.

(Robert Voets/CBS)

Imagine my disappointment, then, when After Midnight turned out not to be a talk show and by talk show I mean anything from a talk show to one that is closer to variety , with sketches and musical numbers and so on, but a revival of an old comedy. Center panel, @midnight. (The confusion was all mine; it was no secret.) I remember this show, which ran from 2013 to 2017 and consisted of guest comedians riffing on Internet videos and memes, as being fun and energetic. (Though I mostly remember host Chris Hardwick shouting Points! as he arbitrarily awarded them to his candidate guests.)

And so I have nothing against After Midnight, per se, which fulfills its mandate perfectly, gives work to comedians I like and, as far as I can tell, hits the mark in its target market. It might work until there's no Internet to make fun of. (Stephen Colbert produces the show; the idea of ​​bringing back @midnight obviously preceded Tomlinson's choice as host.)

Yet this seems to me a missed opportunity, a conservative and narrowly formatted choice for a television sector that has historically been open to, and even relied on, innovation; sillier and more serious than prime time, it's a place for masturbating bears and Closer Looks, for toy instruments and in-depth discussions, robot co-hosts and personal revelations, among other things you'll never find on prime time. Political satire, which is more or less present on most late-night shows, doesn't exist before 11 p.m.; Stewarts Daily Show could have only happened after prime time.

New late-night hosts typically arrive with their own creative team and after a period of adjustment during which they may receive skeptical, often negative, reviews from viewers and critics, they establish an identity, a rhythm, bring silly ideas to life and discover elements and elements. characters that keep the audience coming back. Conan O'Brien, an unknown when he took over Late Night in 1993, and something of a weirdo, barely survived cancellation in his first year, but ultimately stuck around for 16 seasons. His quirk took over.

The world has of course changed around these shows, which date back to the dawn of the medium. (The Tonight Show turns 70 this year.) Until the adoption of the VCR, late-night television was available only at night; there was what you might call a circadian subtext. While consumers now fit television into their schedule, television once shaped their day. Late night television was for people who were happy not to sleep, or who couldn't sleep, or who had nowhere to go in the morning. Maybe you're not ready to go to bed after Johnny Carson is done, or you come back from a club or movie or whatever and turn on the set, and you'd be Tom Snyder talking to John Lydon or Orson Welles , or Chris Elliott living under the stands. on Late Night with David Letterman. The later the start time, the less financial risk and therefore the more freedom to play and arguably the more devoted the fanship. Craig Ferguson's ever-famous card game, the unusually autobiographical Late Late Show, was constitutionally a 12:30 a.m. show; It wouldn't have worked at 11:30. And people remember it.

A woman in a red suit stands on stage with a microphone.

Taylor Tomlinson has joined the shortlist of women who have hosted a late-night show, even though her show is more of a panel than a talk show.

(Sonja Flemming/CBS)

Bowing to the new clip economy, the broadcast networks have all made deals with this devil, creating their own streaming platforms: you can get CBS through Paramount+ and NBC through Peacock and ABC and Fox shows from Hulu, and watch them anytime and anywhere. you want; for these users, late night is an aesthetic term rather than a chronological one. And every late-night show has a presence on YouTube, where previous nights' programming will appear cut into digestible chunks the next morning.

I admit to receiving my late-night television this way, sometimes well after the fact, although there was a time when I was in the trenches in real time, watching until the end of the broadcast day when the image turned into snow. And I probably watched the snow for a while.

As a show on CBS, After Midnight enjoys a certain prestige; Tomlinson's management wouldn't be such big news if it aired on Comedy Central. It's important in that limited sense, and I certainly wish him success. (Though she's already having success elsewhere; her third Netflix special, Have It All, premieres Tuesday.) Do I wish she'd hosted a show of her own design? Something I'd never seen before, whatever it might become, for better or worse, more or less to my liking, something that might become really important, in an unpredictable way? I do. I'm a day dreamer. But that is for another day, that is, night.




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