While at winter press tour, I sat down with Larry Wilmore to talk about his succeeding Stephen Colbert as Comedy Central’s new 11:30 p.m. late-night host for this Adweek profile. His new show, The Nightly Report with Larry Wilmore, kicked off this week. But as Wilmore told me, the show was originally supposed to be called The Minority Report with Larry Wilmore before Fox began developing a series based on the 2002 Tom Cruise film:
We made the call on the field, so to speak, before it really got too late. Part of our constructing the show was understanding how the audience sees content these days. They see it through social platforms—Twitter, Facebook—so your show has to live in those environments. And it was becoming very difficult to operate in those environments and having to use The Minority Report with Larry Wilmore as a complete tag all the time. We were being confined legally by doing that in all forms of everything, and it was becoming a nightmare. And I thought, “Guys, I don’t want it to be March and we have to change our name, after we’ve already been on.” I said, “Let’s just do it now, before it really came to a head.” It was in late October or early November, so there was still enough time. But the show didn’t change, only the name did.
Wilmore also talked about stepping down as Black-ish showrunner to take the Comedy Central job, how TV has changed since he launched The PJs and The Bernie Mac Show and how John Oliver’s recent late-night success has emboldened him.
Three decades after The Cosby Show, the broadcast networks are finally making sitcoms again that more accurately represent and reflect the diverse makeup of their audiences. At Quartz, I wrote about new fall sitcoms Black-ish and Cristela, as well as midseason comedy Fresh Off the Boat.
In doing so, the network is finally beginning to correct the embarrassing dearth of sitcoms featuring non-white families. “If you look at shows now that seem to lack diversity, they actually seem dated, because America doesn’t look like that anymore,” ABC Entertainment President Paul Lee told reporters at the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour. “People want to see voices that reflect the America that they know. … That’s not so much diversity as authenticity.”
As just as Cosby Show did 30 years ago, these three shows focus on themes that viewers of all ethnicities can easily connect with. “We love having a diverse slate, but we think these shows are deeply relatable. [When I watch them], I am one of those families,” said Lee, who admits that the new shows will hopefully appeal to international audiences as well. “We have a chance to resonate in the US and beyond. But make no bones about it, these are American stories, all of them.”
It also helps that Black-ish is terrific, and one of fall’s best new comedies. ABC’s Lee, who is leading the charge towards presenting diverse families, knows that he and his peers still have a long way to go to close the gap. But these shows represent a very promising start.