Liberal NY Times TV Critic Dances Around Why Larry Wilmore's Leftist, Humorless Comedy Show Failed

August 20th, 2016 6:57 PM

New York Times liberal TV critic Mike Hale found every excuse for the cancellation of left-wing comic Larry Wilmore’s Comedy Central, show save the obvious one. The headline flattered the failed TV host: “A Characteristically Low-Key Farewell for a Cerebral Host.” One would have to read all the way through, and very carefully, to get the vague hint that "The Nightly Show With Larry Wilmore" just may have been too unremittingly left-wing and humorless to succeed with the public.

Even the photo caption betrayed a coziness between the Times and leftist “entertainment” types media provocateurs, with the Times giving their bygone hero one more star turn. “Jon Stewart, left, saluted Larry Wilmore during the final episode of Mr. Wilmore’s show.”

The emotional high point of “The Nightly Show With Larry Wilmore” on Thursday night -- the moment that resonated -- belonged to the host’s former boss, Jon Stewart. Dropping by to support Mr. Wilmore on the final episode of his Comedy Central series, which was abruptly canceled this week, Mr. Stewart said, “What you were tasked to do, you have done and done beautifully.” This, Mr. Stewart said, was to provide a forum for “underserved voices.”

Hale refused to blame Wilmore’s “ willingness to make his show largely, indeed almost entirely, about race” for the show losing over half of Stewart’s audience in its year-and-a-half run, instead putting the decline down to Wilmore’s overly cool (cerebral?) personality, his age...anything but his politics.

For evidence, look at the greater buzz (or resonance, to use the term wielded against Mr. Wilmore this week by the Comedy Central president, Kent Alterman) generated by John Oliver of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight” and Samantha Bee of TBS’s “Full Frontal.” Both operate in the emotive, exaggerated style that served them well as correspondents on “The Daily Show.”

Hale found more non-political excuses, including Wilmore’s “recessive” personality, “a general unwillingness to assert his personality.” Or could it be the show’s unremitting leftism and fan service for President Obama? Even Stewart would get his occasional digs in at the left, but Wilmore’s attacks seemed to go solely to the right.

Hale very gently, almost invisibly, probed whether the show’s angry, humorless leftism did the show in, as critic Christian Toto convincingly argued. Toto also pointed to a Vanity Fair interview in which Wilmore blamed the show’s cancellation on its penchant for “making white people uncomfortable.”

Hale finally sidled up to that explanation, sort of, in the last paragraph:

In his farewell address -- which was short, modest and polite -- Mr. Wilmore said his mission had been to “see the world in a way that might not make everybody comfortable.” And maybe there were fans of the left-leaning satire of “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report” who were made uncomfortable by the more single-minded focus of “The Nightly Show.” But maybe if Mr. Wilmore had pounded his desk and mugged a little more, they would have felt at home.

Here's some of what Hale left out, courtesy of Newsbusters Curtis Houck: “Whether it’s saying that Ted Cruz is a “self-hating dildo” to suggesting that Cruz and Marco Rubio aren’t true Hispanics to jokingly wondering to Bernie Sanders if he’s Jesus Christ to even speculating how Michigan Republican Governor Rick Snyder could be killed, both Wilmore’s act and guests grew old rather fast.”

Hale is more at home praising left-wing documentaries, demonstrating his eagerness for Euro-style socialized medicine, and gun control, while mocking a Glenn Beck simulcast: “there was little in the show to reassure those who see Mr. Beck as a right-wing ranter bordering on a demagogue.”