Real Racists Prefer Network Television

Comedy Central decided not to renew The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore this week. The poorly rated show following The Daily Show (itself only slightly less poorly rated thanks to a truly unfunny host in Trevor Noah) was averaging a .2 rating for the all important 18–49 age demographic. If those stats are foreign to you, here’s a helpful example of how ratings and demos work:

3. So what does a 3.7 adults 18–49 rating mean?
If you read question #2, you’ll remember that ratings are percentages not flat numbers. So a 3.7 adults 18–49 rating means 3.7% of viewers ages 18–49 watched the broadcast. For the 2010–11 season, Nielsen Media Research has determined there are 131 million adults 18–49 in the U.S. so 3.7% of them would be 4.847 million (.037 X 131 = 4.847). Or to put it another way, each adults 18–49 ratings point equals 1.31 million viewers.”

By doing our own calculations for a .2 as is The Nightly Show’s case (assuming the same population of 131 million TV viewers used in the above example from 2010–2011), we discover The Nightly Show was averaging an age 18–49 national viewership of 262,000 people, or roughly the town of Bakersfield, CA spread around the country.

Bakersfield, CA Google Street View

Of course, cancellations happen all the time in a TV world driven by ratings: if you don’t do well in “the demo,” you don’t get to continue producing your program. Sadly, those soulless advertisers still seem to care about only making a buck and keeping their own lights on. For some reason, they have little interest in running a feel-good cable access version of a local farmer’s co-op.

Such is reality, and like many life lessons, it’s probably best we move on and learn from our mistakes. A gracious host like Wilmore would recognize that, right? Maybe:

“I’m really grateful to Comedy Central, Jon Stewart, and our fans to have had this opportunity,” [Wilmore] says in a statement to THR…”But I’m also saddened and surprised we won’t be covering this crazy election or ‘The Unblackening’ as we’ve coined it. And keeping it 100, I guess I hadn’t counted on ‘The Unblackening’ happening to my time slot as well.”

Oh, it was racism, I see. Ah, do you recall where you were during the Great Civil Rights March of the 18–49 Demo (Including Next Day DVR)? Wilmore is known for his phrase “keeping it 100,” as in 100 percent honest and real, which is ironic here because he’s keeping the level of racial discord at 100% and directing it at the one TV network that took a risk and gave him his own nightly show for a whole calendar year.

Surely, Wilmore must have proven his racial bias claims by doing everything he could to adapt and increase his audience, didn’t he? Well:

“In June, Wilmore, 54, told THR that growing that social footprint with viral videos wasn’t particularly important to him, nor was it the focus of his series. “It’s not designed to have the type of things that [Jimmy] Fallon and [James] Corden do, like the [carpool] karaoke type of thing or lip sync battle and those types of things because those are such pure comic things,” he said. “Ours is so much more specific and has different structure to it, so it does get shared, but it’s just a different tone.

So you guys wanted a different tone, like an unfunny one? Here’s the main problem as I see it (Trigger warning: WhiteMan-splaining): after Wilmore left his role as the genuinely hilarious Senior Black Correspondent on Jon Stewart’s Daily Show, Wilmore apparently felt pressure to discover a “unique voice” and really “affect change” all the while forgetting he’s on a cable network that hails itself as literally THE Center for Comedy.

So, producing a funny and entertaining half hour took a backseat to “The Cause” of any Social Justice Grievance Mongering to be dredged up. And the audience responded accordingly while Wilmore cried racism.

Cruel facts, cruel world.

One does not get to claim unsubstantiated racial bias simply because one did not succeed at the objective at hand; in this case, failing to achieve halfway decent viewership ratings among Millennials and Gen-Xers who already preferred to get their news from these shows to begin with.