In maybe a surprise move, Comedy Central has announced today that the network has canceled “The Nightly Show With Larry Wilmore” due to weaker than expected ratings. Kent Alterman, Comedy Central’s president, said the show “hasn’t resonated” with audiences.
“Even though we’ve given it a year and a half, we’ve been hoping against hope that it would start to click with our audience, but it hasn’t happened and we’ve haven’t seen evidence of it happening,” Mr. Alterman added in a press statement.
The final episode of Wilmore’s show will be this Thursday – just as the presidential election is about to heat up with the debates about a month away, and just 12 weeks before the election, making this seemingly swift move by Comedy Central, an even stranger one on the surface.
But Comedy Central adds that Wilmore’s contract with the network, along with those of several of the show’s other staff members, were all set to expire in a few weeks, and so the network had to decide now whether to renew or cancel the show. And they chose to cancel because it wasn’t “resonating” with audiences as the network’s president says.
Comedy Central’s 12 a.m. show, “@midnight,” will replace “The Nightly Show” at 11:30 pm for now, with plans to name a full-time replacement for Wilmore’s show some time next year.
“I’m really grateful to Comedy Central, Jon Stewart, and our fans to have had this opportunity,” Wilmore said in a statement. “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 next obvious question is what this might mean for “The Daily Show” with Trevor Noah, which airs at 11 pm, and has been surrounded by talk that Noah is simply not filling the gaping hole left by Jon Stewart’s exit, and the show might be in trouble thanks to lagging ratings.
But Comedy Central’s Alterman has been vocal about his firm support for Noah’s version of “The Daily Show,” which he’s been host of for almost a year.
“The Daily Show” had an average of 2.1 million viewers a night in Stewart’s final year as host, while Noah’s audience has averaged 1.3 million, according to Nielsen. And for the first time in 16 years, “The Daily Show” was not nominated for an Emmy in the best variety show category.
Wilmore’s show lost more than half the audience that he inherited, after taking over the time-slot vacated by Stephen Colbert, and the numbers continue to dive.
“We were hoping that we would get a turnaround along the way including the wild, wild two weeks of the conventions.,” Comedy Central’s president said. “We just haven’t seen it on any level from the general conversation to ratings to any sort of traction on social media platforms.”
Whether Wilmore will stay on with Comedy Central in any capacity isn’t known at this time. But he is involved in other projects, like being an executive producer for HBO’s upcoming Issa Rae comedy “Insecure.”