Late-night hosts only have themselves to blame for cancellations, ratings flops
They keep falling one-by-one: First Samantha Bee’s “Full Frontal” on TBS. Then the Trevor Noah version of “The Daily Show” on Comedy Central. Bee has already been canceled, and Noah will soon be departing.
Hardly anyone will notice their exits, however, as Bee was having trouble attracting even 300,000 viewers to her show, while Noah can’t draw above 400,000 viewers on most nights. For context, Jon Stewart averaged 2.5 million viewers at his peak on “The Daily Show” in 2013, well before the rise of Donald Trump and the artificial rise in ratings for the late-night genre in general.
Speaking of Trump, he continues to be front and center on the broadcast late-night shows. It’s hard to find a monologue on Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel or Seth Meyers without the former president, out of office for nearly two years, being the target.
Old habits die hard: A study conducted by George Mason University found that in the weeks leading up to the 2020 presidential election, 97 percent of the presidential candidate jokes by Colbert and NBC’s Jimmy Fallon targeted Trump rather than Joe Biden. In raw numbers, that’s 455 jokes about Trump to just 14 about the gaffe machine that is our current president. Not much has changed today.
But since the aforementioned hosts are Democrat activists more than entertainers, the myopia will stay on Trump. Result: Ratings continue to fall to disturbingly low levels on the broadcast networks. That is especially true of Meyers, who took over David Letterman’s original 12:30 a.m. slot on NBC. And in recent years, the headlines portray him as some kind of hero to the cause.
The Guardian: Seth Meyers on failed voting rights bill: ‘Republicans are waging war on democracy’
New York Times: Seth Meyers Is Tired of Republicans’ Playing the Victim
The Hollywood Reporter: Late Night Hosts Unite to Spotlight Climate Change
Again, context: In 1984, Letterman averaged 2.5 million viewers. Meyers can’t even break the 800,000 viewer mark. Things are so bad that recent reports have Meyers being relegated either to the network’s struggling streaming service, Peacock, or to MSNBC, the left-wing cable arm with an average viewer age of 65.
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Big celebrity guests have seemingly been replaced with the likes of Nancy Pelosi and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Monologues, full of pious snark and ultra-partisanship, sound like the audio book version of Eric Swalwell’s Twitter feed. It’s getting increasingly difficult to separate watching CNN or MSNBC in primetime from CBS or NBC or ABC at 11:30 Eastern. And folks are tuning out.
Another recent report in the New York Times says NBC brass “have had discussions about ending the network’s prime-time lineup at 10 p.m. and turning the hour over to local stations, according to two people with knowledge of the talks.”
The escapism in the genre is virtually gone in 2022. Half the audience has been alienated. Kimmel even went so far to declare he didn’t want anyone watching who disagreed with his politics.
“If they’re so turned off by my opinion on healthcare and gun violence, then I probably wouldn’t want to have a conversation with them anyway,” he declared in 2017.
So much for the open exchange of ideas. Or just people laughing together regardless of how they vote.
Fox’s Greg Gutfeld is now the King of Late Night. His show is what late night used to be… unapologetic, politically incorrect, unpredictable.
The landscape ain’t what it used to be. And don’t be fooled: the hosts and brains behind them aren’t victims of circumstance. They only have themselves and their egos to blame.