The Nightly Show: why this desperate take on the US talkshow is a catalogue of failures

Stricken presenters, weedy attempts at satire and sketches that urgently need to go back to the drawing board all grate in the late-night TV shocker

If ITV’s The Nightly Show (Weekdays, 10pm, ITV), in which a series of well-known television hosts watch their careers go down the khazi over five days, proves anything, it’s that as surely as Americans will struggle to make a decent cup of tea, we will never master their late-night talkshow format.

You’d think it would be easy. Hire a charismatic host and a crack team of writers, fashion a city skyline backdrop and bring in some famous guests and a lubricated live audience – job done. But past shows such as Lily Allen and Friends or The Late Edition have already shown that British networks have yet to match the easy confidence and sophistication of, say, CBS’s Late Show or the Jimmys, Fallon and Kimmel. Should we concede defeat? Apparently not, because right now we have The Nightly Show, an extravagant money pit of forced laughter and plummeting ratings that has bumped the News at Ten from its usual slot and, almost seven weeks into its run, is in its final death throes.

Gordon Ramsay hosting The Nightly Show.
Gordon Ramsay hosting The Nightly Show. Photograph: Brian Ritchie/Rex/Shutterstock

Where to start with its catalogue of failures? There’s the too-long introductory monologue with its half-baked attempt at squeezing in the day’s news, with only the faintest whisper of satire. There’s the dazzling neon lighting, no doubt designed to scorch retinas and thus distract the show’s live audience from the calamity unfolding centre stage. There are the guests, all grinning emphatically in the hope of masking their bewilderment and each silently plotting the ritual execution of their agent.

There are also the skits that are as random as they are stupid. Would that we could imagine the meeting of minds that yielded a quiz in which two millennials, both born in 1998, are wheeled out to answer questions on stuff that happened in the 1980s. Essentially, five minutes spent taking the piss out of young people for not being old. Well done everyone.

And we can fairly assume that Joe Pasquale getting his arsecrack waxed, with the episode’s host Bradley Walsh watching through his fingers via video link, won’t live on in the annals of great chatshow moments, alongside Russell Harty being belted by Grace Jones or Tom Cruise jumping on Oprah’s sofa. Pasquale’s agony was nothing next to that of the series editors suddenly having a moment of clarity.

But most distressing of all are the hosts who change every week; each looking more stricken than the last, each wondering how in God’s name they got lumbered with The Nightly Show while that bastard James Corden is showered with glory on America’s Late Late Show. Behold John Bishop spouting gags about toxoplasmosis in children and sex workers in Amsterdam, whom he compares to choosing a rescue dog (”Looks a bit rough but I think I can handle it”). Witness Gordon Ramsay – determined that if anyone can breathe life into this ghastly shit-show, he can – cracking a spit-or-swallow joke during a taste test with the TV chef Gizzi Erskine.

It is no wonder that this week the show is bringing back Dermot O’Leary to front it for a second time, a man so sweetly dreary that he could be outclassed by a blank screen. At least he can be relied upon not to make creepy jokes about blowjobs to his female guests. For ITV, already accustomed to its evening flaying on social media, dodging an Ofcom fine is about as much as can be hoped for at this stage.

Fiona Sturges

The GuardianTramp

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