Comedy Not Yet Aired Earns Second Season From Proud Pop

A new comedy series on the network known as Pop raises timely questions about how the TV business measures success these days.

Three weeks ago, the network announced that the show -- a sitcom called “Nightcap” about a fictional late-night TV show -- had been renewed for a second season. This was unusual because the show’s first season had not yet aired. In fact, it had not yet begun. That happens this Wednesday (Nov. 16).

And yet, the press release Pop issued on Oct. 27 contained prepared statements like this one: “ ‘Nightcap’ is a fresh spin on the screwball workplace comedy in an original series that is distinctive and broadly appealing.” In the press release, this quote is attributed to Justin Rosenblatt, executive vice president of original programming and development for Pop. 



Fair enough, since everybody is entitled to blow their own horn once in a while. But to label a show “distinctive” and “broadly appealing” before it has even been put to the ultimate test -- namely, actually airing on television -- seems to be an exercise in putting the hope cart before the proverbial horse.

More power to Ali Wentworth, though -- she got a second season for her new sitcom even before the first season aired. Why? I have no idea. 

If you choose to check out “Nightcap,” it will remind you of several shows (or maybe more) that have come before it. In its comedic take on the eccentric personnel who work backstage at a late-night TV show, it is influenced, of course, by “The Larry Sanders Show,” which is really the template for all of these that have followed it (and a show that has never been improved upon by any of them).

A more recent antecedent for “Nightcap” is “30 Rock.” Although that show was not about a nightly late-night show (the show there was a fictional weekly sketch comedy show), the spirit, pacing and even the music is so reminiscent of “30 Rock” that Tina Fey might want to call her lawyer.

In “Nightcap,” Wentworth plays the executive producer of a late-night show based in New York called “Nightcap with Jimmy.” The “Jimmy” name is a joke about the two Jimmies on real-life late-night TV -- Fallon and Kimmel (plus there’s a James too -- Corden).

On “Nightcap” (the sitcom), the Wentworth character is seen going through her paces each day trying to manage her uncooperative staff and wrangle guests who always seem to be cancelling at the last minute.

In real life, Wentworth is married to George Stephanopoulos and the two apparently cut quite a figure on the New York social scene, at least where other celebrities are concerned. They seem to have befriended a lot of them, because Ali seems to have called in every favor imaginable in her quest to ensure that several real-life boldface names turn up playing themselves in each episode of “Nightcap.”

In the premiere, there’s Sarah Jessica Parker, Kelly Ripa, her husband Mark Consuelos and the ubiquitous Andy Cohen. In the second episode Pop provided for preview (say that 10 times fast) -- which happens to be the third episode, and not the second – Denis Leary and Whoopi Goldberg are called upon to help their friend Ali.

Maybe this was why “Nightcap” was renewed for Season Two even before Season One had even started. Maybe Ali dazzled the Pop people with her network of celebrity acquaintances.

The principal gimmick of “Nightcap” is that we don’t seem destined to actually meet the “Jimmy” who hosts the show, although he is talked about all the time by his underlings. In the two episodes I watched, Jimmy never turned up, although there were various plot points and one-liners concerned with pubic lice, child molestation, a ventriloquist dummy’s erection, and the Wentworth character’s “haggard, used-up uterus.” 

I wonder what they’ll cover in Season Two.

“Nightcap” premieres Wednesday (Nov. 16) at 8 p.m. Eastern on Pop.

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