CBS gave its new late-night series “After Midnight” a bit of a soft launch Tuesday night, debuting the show with minimal fanfare at 12:37 a.m. behind “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.” Comedian Taylor Tomlinson hosts the series, which is taped at Paramount in Hollywood.
The decision to keep “After Midnight” premiering is by design: to allow the new show to find its voice over the next few weeks, before the Super Bowl and the return of first-run scripted series in February, when there will be more eyeballs. Back to broadcast networks.
“I'm Taylor Tomlinson and this is After Midnight, where three comedians enter, one wins and two regret taking part,” she said at the opening of the first episode. “We're taking the Internet and trying desperately to make it fun. It's going to be fun, right? Comedians, you're going to be competing for the grand prize with my dad's approval. It's rare but it can be won!”
Comedians Whitney Cummings, Aparna Nancherla, and Kurt Braunohler were the first round of comedians to play the game, as panelists waxed wise about pop culture, headlines, and “the dumbest things on the Internet.”
“After Midnight” looks like a game show, but the points are assigned randomly by Tomlinson and based on the panelists' answers. The show began with a segment called “Group Chat,” in which I shared trending stories for the panelists to discuss.
The first episode was taped earlier Tuesday — and as proof, Tomlinson pointed to Monday night's Emmy Awards. “No matter where you stand politically, you can't deny that the Emmy Awards were yesterday,” Tomlinson said. “And I was there. They'll invite anyone. Did you guys watch the Emmys?”
The comedians were silent. “No obligation,” she replied. “It was on Fox.” “We don't care here at CBS if you watch it! I was just making sure. So no one watched the Emmys? TV is dead? Great.”
Braunohler quipped, “This will be good on the Internet!”
Tomlinson added: “I don't even know what awards our show could win, because it's kind of a talk show where there's no conversation. It's a game show but the points are fake. It's a frivolous project but somehow it makes me look worse. Panelists, what What award will After Midnight win at the Emmys?
“Best late night host! Sorry,” Braunohler shouted. Just Late-night hostess.”
In the “Hashtag” section, comedians were asked to introduce “lesser-known TV shows,” such as “Bottom Chef” and “NCIS: Modesto.”
On “Tik Chopped,” Tomlinson and the panelists talk about terrible cooking videos on TikTok. In the What I Can't Live For game, comedians were shown random products and asked to describe why they needed them. The “Dictionary of Suburbia” featured actual slang, such as “bussin,” asking comedians to use the word in a sentence. “To Smash or Not to Smash” featured the comedians choosing between who they preferred: Mario or Luigi; Patrick Starr or Sandy Chick; Garfield or John Arbuckle; Gritty or Quaker Oats mascot. Elimination Game “Is this still cool?” — where Tuesday night comedians had to explain why or why animal prints are still cool.
“Yes, but lesser-known animals,” Braunohler said. Nancherla: “Yes, because with climate change it would be good to remember what it looks like.” Cummings: “As an aspiring cougar, I need animal print to be fashionable. If you don't agree with that, then you're not a feminist.”
Cummings was the first to be eliminated from the show and was asked to apologize for the loss.
In “For the Win”, Braunohler and Nancherla were asked to create new holidays, with the audience voting on the winner.
Braunohler: “Today is Harbor Day: a celebration of America's harbors and parking at sea. This is Harbor Day, not Arbor Day. Everyone knows what a tree is, so why shouldn't Arbor Day just finish the conversation and go to Tree Day. Sincerely, Harbor Day. Nancherla : “Ashley Wednesday. “It’s Ash Wednesday for girls with bangs.” Nancherla won.
After a somewhat slow start (with both Tomlinson and the panelists sensing the new show's guardrails), everyone got stronger — and more edgy, letting the whistles start to fly — as the hour wore on. Cummings especially enjoyed arriving to class and seeing if her jokes would air. Tomlinson was once asked: “Whitney, do you want to be in this episode?”
Guests later this week include Paul F. Tompkins, Sophie Badel, and Karl Tartt on Wednesday, and Max Greenfield, Ike Barinholtz, and Robbie Hoffman on Thursday.
“After Midnight” takes over the place previously occupied by “The Late Late Show with James Corden” (and, briefly, by reruns of “Comics Unleashed with Byron Allen”). It is based on “@midnight” which followed “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report” from October 2013 to August 2017, and like the new show, was a series of panels mostly of guest comedians interacting with host Chris Hardwick.
Last year, Tomlinson struck a deal with Netflix to bring her next two specials to the streamer. Tomlinson recorded her latest special in Washington, D.C., with a premiere date of 2024.
Tomlinson saw her star rise in 2020 when the series “Quarter-Life Crisis” was released on Netflix just before the pandemic began. Meanwhile, Tomlinson is working on a Village Roadshow Pictures film based on her upbringing, which she is writing with Taylor Tetreau and will star in for director Paul Weitz.
Jack Martin, showrunner for all four seasons of @midnight, and Eric Pearce serve as co-producers and executive producers. Comedian and writer Joe Firestone is co-executive producer and head writer. Alexx Wells also serves as co-executive producer.
CBS Studios produces “After Midnight” in association with Stephen Colbert’s Spartina Industries and Funny Or Die. Carrie Bialik, Stephen Colbert, Evelyn McGee Colbert, James Dixon, Tom Purcell, Whitney Hudak, Mike Farrah, Joe Farrell, Henry R. Muñoz, and Jason U. Nadler are also EPs with Martin and Pierce.
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