These people are so bad at their jobs, it’s hard to understand where their audience comes from. They don’t make jokes, and when they do, they’re more often misses than they are hits. They aren’t very charming, unless smug pretentiousness passes for charming in this increasingly autistic age of delusional navel-gazing. And they aren’t even all that easy on the eyes, since they all look like poorly-postured and pasty nerds who share all the same set designers and suit tailors.
So why the hell are there so many of these late-night talk-comedy shows? Who actually watches this crap? Who actually wants to spend their weekday evenings listening to a cadre of nearly-identical saps posture their arrogant liberal-elite values before they dip off to bed for work in the morning? That’s insane. The only thing these jokers have going for them is their name branding—and half of them don’t even have that.
The second question is somewhat easier to answer, but it only makes the first question even more puzzling. According to the Nielson Company, the top three network-broadcast late-night shows have a to-date seasonal average of a little under eight and a half million viewers. This accounts for three shows: The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel Live, and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Maybe we could be generous and assume another 20-30 percent from those saps that are streaming their shows online, but that’s quite a generous assumption.
In general, Millennials don’t watch a whole lot of television. A lot of them watch things on their TVs, certainly, but instead of network shows or paying the extra dollars for an HBO/Starz package, they prioritize streaming services, Netflix binge-watching, and hooking their console gaming system or computer into an HDMI port so they can watch their cat videos in 4k resolution. And it’s hard to blame them. This means that the audience nailed by the Nielson ratings are, for the most part, looking more broadly at the older demographics—Gen Xers and Boomers, predominantly. For the sake of clarity, the chart I linked above only covers people through the age of 49, which means Boomers aren’t even listed there. But even if they were, I’d be willing to bet that the numbers wouldn’t change all that much.
In their defense, these late-night programs have insisted that Trump’s inauguration boosted their ratings and has helped carry them along all year. Well, I’m not sure how true that is. The last week of December 2016’s ratings clocked in a seasonal average of 8.65 million viewers for the late night slot—which is actually up from the present’s 8.43 million. Trump’s inauguration may have led to a spike for the months of January and February, but it clearly hasn’t carried them through to today. Maybe they’re losing viewers because the 2016 storm of political intrigue has finally worn off and people are returning to their daily lives. Or maybe they’re losing viewers because they simply aren’t entertaining, and the more they claw at politics and cling desperately to the dry one-liners in order to stay relevant, the more polluted their acts get with partisan propaganda and embarrassing virtue-signaling. The only people that could enjoy this sort of embarrassing spectacle are people who wish they were friends with these egotistical morons.
But don’t confuse this ire for an impulse to take all of these clowns off of the networks. One or two liberal doofuses blandly commenting on emotionally-charged political issues is one thing, but we already have newscasters and people who carry legitimate press-passes for that. Do we need another nine or ten of them, especially when they have their own shows, their own prompted studio audiences, and about as much understanding of the news as your open-office desk mate who browses Facebook all the time? The answer is no. Obviously no. Even if we pretend like we do need network television, there simply isn’t any place for this sort of crap.