As we approach the 2021, it’s about time we started making New Year’s resolutions. The holiday is upon us, and if we don’t have that list scratched out in a notebook before midnight strikes on January 1, it’s all for naught.
Or we’ve avoided creating a list of resolutions we’re just going to break anyway. Win-win?
One way talk show creators and producers can “win-win” (it’s a troubled segue, I know)
in 2015 is to consider making one – or all – of these New Year’s resolutions.
- Hire a female late night talk show host. This one is specifically for ABC, because the Alphabet Network is in the best opportunity to make room for another late night talk show with this resolution – though every network should rethink its late night diversity efforts. ABC should pursue comedian, actress and writer Amy Schumer, too. She is the perfect candidate – and the perfect complement – to late night host Jimmy Kimmel. They share a similar ribald sense of humor and, together, would become the de facto late night line-up for college campuses across the country. Schumer already conducts interviews on her Comedy Central sketch show, Inside Amy Schumer, and is a natural at it. More than that, she could easily outrank the boys (Seth Meyers and James Corden) in the ratings race.
- Heck, focus on diversity in general. With Arsenio Hall and Chelsea Handler’s departure over the summer, late night television got very white and male really quick. It didn’t help matters much when CBS named two more white guys (Stephen Colbert and Corden) as replacements for two older white guys (David Letterman and Craig Ferguson). And while Comedy Central broke the pattern by building a show around Larry Wilmore (though the change from The Minority Report to The Nightly Show is a little bothersome), the big leagues of late night – NBC, CBS and ABC – are dominated by white guys.
- Reintroduce the daytime variety talk show. Daytime talk show host Ellen DeGeneres stands alone as the only daytime talk show host who hosts a classic daytime talk show. (Does that sentence count as onomatopoeia?) You know, the type of show Dinah Shore, Merv Griffin and Rosie O’Donnell once hosted. Those shows have all but disappeared. Why not bring one back?
- Bring the panel talk show back to late night. While you could argue that The View introduced us all to the concept of the panel talk show, the modern version of the panel show truly began with Bill Maher on Comedy Central. In 1993, comedian Maher introduced the talk show world to Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher. (Okay, Sunday morning political talk shows were doing the panel thing well before Maher. Maher brought the comedy element to the format.) The show featured a rotating panel of celebrity guests, political pundits, musicians, authors, comedians and more. Guests would discuss “hot topics” of the day – political issues, news makers, pop culture. Personalities would invariably clash, and Maher was quick to stoke the fire. Chelsea Handler kept the late night panel show alive with Chelsea Lately. Maybe it’s time to re-introduce the concept to the broadcast network crowd.
- Embrace the late night evolution. If you do a Google search, you’ll discover an interesting research paper by Stephen Winzenburg that talks about how The Tonight Show’s Jimmy Fallon is using less of the show to interview celebrities and news makers, filling that time instead with comedy sketches, musical numbers and a whole lot of board games with movie stars. It’s enough to make you think Fallon was adopting a daytime sensibility to late night television. The truth is probably closer to adopting a digital sensibility – shareable content that will inevitably drive more viewers to the program. Think about it. Are you more likely to share an interview with Emma Stone or Emma Stone lip-syncing “All I Do is Win” by DJ Khaled? Once shared, you’re going to tune into Fallon (or DVR it or watch it on Hulu) next time there’s a lip sync battle or Emma Stone shows up, aren’t you? Maybe that’s why Fallon’s ratings are nearly double all of his competition? Late night producers need to embrace this new way of sharing content in order to build viewers and fans.