NPR's new TV critic Eric Deggans took to NPR’s “race, culture, and ethnicity” page to complain “Who Will Replace Letterman? Probably Another White Guy.” Deggans asked (his italics): “Why are there so many white guys dominating late night talk show television?”
It’s the target audience, he said: “So daytime TV is bursting with Ellens and Oprahs, Latifahs and Katies, Barbaras and Julies, while nighttime runneth over with Jons, Jimmys, Davids, Conans, Stephens, Craigys and even a Carson or two.” Deggans utterly ignored the actual black late-night host on broadcast TV, Arsenio Hall, even though his show was just renewed for a second season and beat Conan's ratings recently with Prince in the house.
That’s cute, Mr. Deggans. The reader is left with the first impression that late-night is all white. Then it turns to “mostly,” but still no mention of Hall.
But while daytime has the occasional Steve Harvey, Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz, late night has mostly been the province of the smart-alecky white guy. I don't expect CBS to change this, given how important the Letterman succession will be for them.
Deggans then lists his fantasy hosts for CBS, and even illustrated his wish for Cedric the Entertainer by showing video of him on ... Arsenio.
Deggans began his list with Chris Rock, and then mentioned another black late-night host, recently cancelled, W. Kamau Bell and his show “Totally Biased” on FX: “(shout out here to W. Kamau Bell, who Rock championed into hosting his own unfairly-canceled talk show on FX/FXX. I love him, but couldn't see CBS handing him a show on his own, even in my wildest showbiz fantasies.)”
He then pushed Aisha Tyler for the gig, showing a clip of her on the Bell show.
Alyssa Rosenberg, the Washington Post culture blogger recently selected from the lefty Think Progress blog, also ignored Arsenio, but underlined that late night also has featured Chelsea Handler and comedians of color:
The cancellation of George Lopez’s “Lopez Tonight” on TBS, W. Kamau Bell’s “Totally Biased” on FXX and T.J. Holmes’s “Don’t Sleep!” on BET have thinned the ranks of comedians of color.
She also touted Bravo “Watch What Happens” host Andy Cohen as the only gay late-night host. Although that show looks like it was made in someone’s basement, sometimes its ratings are roughly 75 percent of Jon Stewart's ratings, but everyone assumes Stewart is the cable gold standard.