Two days in and many people had already decided they didn’t like the Nightly Show, ITV’s new weeknight chat and entertainment offering, which has controversially shunted the News at Ten to a later slot and has been criticised in particular for trying and failing to reproduce the classic US late-night chat show format.
Its title sequence with a view of the city skyline, booming voiceover – “Welcome to London’s Cochrane Theatre, iiiit’s The Nightly Show!” – and movie theatre-style signage was supposed to turn Holborn into Hollywood, before the host’s opening comedy monologue aimed to skewer the news of the day and the guests were brought out.
But with David Walliams in charge – the first of eight presenter combinations, each doing a week-long stint – the jokes weren’t funny. Meanwhile, the theatre didn’t live up to the vast auditoriums of the US shows, where the audience extends each way as far as the eye can see (The Nightly Show gives the impression that a few rows of folding chairs have just been set up in a convention centre) and – no offence to Martin Clunes or Nina Conti – but the opening night roster of Doc Martin and a ventriloquist didn’t exactly say star booking power.
But perhaps the most glaringly unfavourable comparison between The Nightly Show and the US shows it’s trying to copy were the opening night skits around the Oscars. David Walliams and James Corden – who, as the host of CBS’s Late Late Show, is demonstrating that a British presenter can make the format work even if he has to go to America to do it – both donned wigs and cut themselves into Emma Stone’s scenes from La La Land. But while Walliams sat at a piano banging a wooden spoon on a pan, Corden (and, no doubt, his writers’ room) turned an emotional song from the movie into a funny, topical commentary on the Oscars, with clever new lyrics.
The next day when The Nightly Show returned, fewer than half its Monday night audience came with it and there was already talk of it being shifted to a later slot and replaced by the news.
But then on Wednesday, Rob Brydon guested on the show. He did what he always does, whether he’s a host or a guest, taking charge, leading the conversation and being consistently funny with his easy humour and great impressions.
It was a massive improvement on the first two nights and demonstrates that even though The Nightly Show will never compete with its US counterparts when it comes to glamour, slickness or set pieces, it could still be an entertaining show if it had the right guests – or the right host.
— Rob (@liono32) March 2, 2017
— Sean the Mondasian Cyberman (@WhoPotterVian) March 1, 2017
— Richard Osman (@richardosman) March 1, 2017
The Nightly Show continues weekdays at 10pm on ITV