OK, so ousted CEO Dauman was a casualty of boardroom politics, even though he may have been the media conglomerate’s best hope at turning around many of its misfortunes. Politics is politics. Apparently, so are cancellations.
Or, as former “The Daily Show” host Jon Stewart told “The Nightly Show” founder and former host Wilmore during a surprise appearance on the show’s final episode, “Don’t confuse cancellation with failure.”
A lot has been written about Viacom’s decision to cancel “The Nightly Show,” and in particular, its failure to resonate with an audience. But as Stewart implied, the audience it failed to resonate with was the Viacom executives who made the decision to pull its plug.
I’m not a TV critic, just a trade hack, but I think those Viacom executives made a big mistake on that one. And on “The Jim Gaffigan Show,” too. For different reasons.
One thing they had in common was that both Wilmore and Gaffigan could have been genuine franchises for Viacom, because they had all the tenets of great brands: relevance and differentiation.
I don’t know all the behind-the-scenes politics -- and no doubt economics -- but I do know that both Comedy Central’s “The Nightly Show” and TV Land’s “The Jim Gaffigan Show” were like no other shows on television. And to me, anyway, they were very good. They were, in my household, appointment TV.
Honestly, it took a while for “The Nightly Show” to resonate with us. Launching in the shadows of Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show” is, as they say, a tough act to follow. But over time, it found its own unique voice. And in the wake of Stewart’s departure from “The Daily Show,” I believe it began to resonate.
Without taking anything away from Trevor Noah’s version of “The Daily Show,” which also took a while to fully click, I honestly think “The Nightly Show” was doing a better job of tackling late-night TV’s topical news humor, and was far more diverse in its portrayal.
I’m not sure if it was its time slot leading out of “The Daily Show,” or the fact that it didn’t seem to resonate as much with big brand name sponsors, but it was a keeper and should have been nurtured. If for no better reason, than the fact that it was the only mainstream show of its kind.
As for “The Jim Gaffigan Show,” it was just downright funny. And an immensely creative take on what has otherwise been a trite and largely formulaic genre, the sitcom. Yes, the whole premise of the show was about putting Gaffigan into situations setting him up as the brunt of the joke, but it did it so well.
We may never know the real politics behind these cancellations, but I can’t help wondering if, for Gaffigan, anyway, a recent episode depicting a group of TV Land executives walking out on him as he was set to do a standup performance at a New York comedy club wasn’t somehow prophetic, or maybe an insider joke he already knew at the time.
In any case, neither Gaffigan nor Wilmore -- or for that matter Dauman -- failed. They were simply canceled. It was the people at Viacom who made the decisions that failed.