CBS's New Comedy Late-Night Series Is No Joke

CBS’ new late-night experiment has a comedian host joshing with three guest comedians in a freestyle battle of wits and one-liners.

If you have ever had to carry on a conversation with the kind of comedian whose “conversation” consists solely of constant joke-making, then you have an idea of what watching the show, “After Midnight,” feels like.

The show premiered Tuesday night (technically early Monday morning) at 12:27 a.m. Eastern and ran for an hour until 1:27 a.m.

The arrival of the show now officially consigns the old “Late Late Show” and its host desk, comedy segments, celebrity banter and in-house band to the dustbin of TV history.

However, based on the premiere episode of “After Midnight,” this new departure in network late-night TV is not a milestone worth celebrating.



Big caveat here: Shows of this type (and other types of shows too) rarely swoop in on their first airings and wow everybody. 

The TV Blog has seen some shows fare badly in their debuts, only to improve over time and stick around for a while.

But there are plenty that never find their footing. Whatever happens to “After Midnight” in the days and weeks to come, Episode One was a pretty tough slog.

Not that the principals didn’t try, starting with host Taylor Tomlinson, 30. She was like a human laugh track, bursting into laughter whether the comments made by her three guests were funny or not.

She was trying to put it across -- trying too hard, actually -- but she is evidently very new at this kind of thing. 

"After Midnight" is produced by Stephen Colbert’s production company, Spartina. Tomlinson and Colbert appeared together onstage at the Emmys Monday night in a bid to promote the premiere of "After Midnight" the next day. 

Perhaps he can school her in the fine points of hosting a TV show on national late-night TV.

Aspects of the premiere episode of “After Midnight” tempt a TV columnist to apply them negatively.

"I’m Taylor Tomlinson and this is 'After Midnight,' where three comedians enter, one wins and two will regret participating!" said Tomlinson to introduce the show.

A critic might then write something like: "I don’t know about participating in it, but I regretted watching it!" The TV Blog would never do that, however.

“We’re taking the internet and desperately trying to make it fun!” she then said, to which a critic might write: " 'Desperate' is a great word for this show!" Or something to that effect. 

But all that would be mean. "After Midnight" is a new thing for network late-night, so let’s give it a chance!

The show is styled as a game show in which Tomlinson introduces an image from social media that is then displayed on the large screen at left in the photo above. 

She then asks a question related to the image, and the three comedian contestants each weigh in with a response that may or may not be funny, depending on one’s individual taste.

If Tomlinson thinks a response is funny, she awards the contestant a hundred or more dollars. In Tuesday’s premiere, she basically liked just about all of them.

Examples included a tweet (or is it an X now?) in which a bar patron snapped a photo of a bartender caught looking at his smartphone for the recipe to make a simple drink.

So, Tomlinson asked the question: “What would you never [want to] see someone google in the moment?”

"How to dispose of wet pants in front of [the] studio audience," answered contestant Kurt Braunohler, who was then awarded with $100.

Another tweet had a photo of someone’s dog staring at Turkish news on a TV. “Dog is mesmerized by Turkish news again,” the tweet said.

"Comedians, what dog-related news has this literal news hound so invested?" Tomlinson asked.

"Breaking news! Bird!" answered another contestant, Aparna Nancherla.

Opinion alert: At no point did the show fulfill its stated mission of making the internet fun again. Nor was the show much fun either.

However, if it was CBS’s goal to save money on production costs in late-night TV’s second hour, then mission accomplished. The show looks like it cost about 10 cents to produce.

At one point when the "game" was underway, Tomlinson admitted jokingly that the show is hard to describe. 

"It’s kind of a talk show, but there’s no conversation. It’s a game show, but the points are fake. It’s a vanity project, but it somehow makes me look worse!" she said.

On that last quip, the TV Blog begs to disagree. Tuesday night was just the first day of late-night school for Taylor Tomlinson. And just like kindergarten, "After Midnight" will hopefully get better every day.

1 comment about "CBS's New Comedy Late-Night Series Is No Joke".
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  1. Mark Sutton from NHR, January 18, 2024 at 11 a.m.

    Content-wise, it really doesn't need to get better.

    As long as it gets the same viewership as Corden, CBS will be happy, because it's far less expensive to produce.

    The person that should be worried is Seth Meyers, as his show will be the next on the chopping block if this is successful enough.

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