This Doesn’t Exist: Diversity On Late-Night Television

April 8, 2013  |  

We’ve been following the late-night saga on NBC, with the final decision coming down last week: Jimmy Fallon will be replacing Jay Leno next year. This is great for people who find Leno unwatchable. But, nonetheless, it’s just another game of musical chairs. A white male who once hosted a show at 12:30 a.m. is now hosting one an hour earlier. SNL‘s Seth Meyer is rumored to be in the running to take that 12:30 slot. And late night will be as lacking in diversity as ever.

Among the suggestions that have been made as an alternative to all of this is Chelsea Handler (who already has a couple of shows on the E! Network), and, our personal suggestion, Aisha Tyler. However, according to the AP, which takes TV to task for this state of affairs, neither woman is in serious contention for a job.

“Women have exhibited an interest in talking for centuries. I’m not sure how it is that no one has seemed to notice,” the article quotes Merrill Markoe, an Emmy award-winning writer who has worked with David Letterman.

The article goes on to blame a reluctance to change in the television industry. But what’s getting neglected by these late-night execs is the fact that late-night viewing habits are already changing. The major networks are now sharing the landscape with cable, where shows like The Daily Show, HGTV programming (a mellow, pre-slumber alternative to the yuk yuks on other stations), and reruns of some of your favorite movies and bygone TV shows are running. It’s always interesting to see your favorite celeb sit down to talk about their new movie. But no one has to tune in to a TV show at 11:30 at night to do so. The Internet has made sure of that.

But on that note, the AP says that the networks have research that shows women prefer to watch a man on late night, “while Oprah Winfrey, Ellen DeGeneres and Katie Couric are welcome in daytime.” And the majority of people watching these late-night shows are women. It’s the guys who are choosing the alternatives we mentioned.

And in terms of racial diversity, the fact that shows hosted by comedians like George Lopez and Wanda Sykes were cancelled gives the networks the excuse, “Well we tried, but people aren’t interested.”

Just like anything else, you have to keep trying until you find someone who captivates. So TV is going back to the tried-and-true: Arsenio Hall is getting a show in September. But it’s going to be syndicated rather than broadcast on one of the major stations.

So we’re going to — ONCE AGAIN — push for Aisha Tyler. Funny, smart, edgy, she’s just what any station needs.

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