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By Peter White.

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The cultural phenomenon of the US late-night television show is one not often discussed coming from my education and family background. Little mention of TV has been made in my academic studies or by my parents except in the context of evening viewing arguments. The Late Show with Stephen Colbertairing on weeknights at pm, has an undoubtedly comedic feel.

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That year, a political rally led by Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert gathered an estimatedpeople in Washington DC, before the midterm elections.

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Presidential candidates have long done the rounds of such programmes in the hope of raising their profiles and appearing likeable to voters. Little wonder, then, that British television executives have tried to introduce similar shows across the Atlantic.

Mr Carr used monologues to show off his one-liners, Mr Brooker was given a segment in which to poke fun at British culture and Mr Mitchell engaged in the apoplectic rants for which he is famous.

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Broadcasting on weekdays, ITV put a different celebrity at the helm every week—and it was a disaster. It did not make it past the inaugural series.

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Ellie Taylor, a comedian who worked on the show, argued that it was a question of resources. The failures are not down to a paucity of capable hosts. James Corden and John Oliver, two British comedians, have found great success presenting late-night shows in America.

Nor is it reflective of a British distaste for political programmes, which are a staple on the schedule of the major channels albeit rarely in prime-time.

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The cancellations suggest an unwillingness on the part of television executives to persevere with the format if it does not yield returns quickly, particularly when a series is expensive to produce. American shows, by contrast, can afford to give new hosts and new styles time.

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Viewers dropped off, but then returned. Perhaps it is a question of familiarity, too.

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Panel shows are a tried-and-tested format in Britain. The setup lends itself to a particular style of British humour: guests can make newsy quips and puns, and quick thinking is rewarded.

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All this is ificantly different in tone to the monologues typical of late-night talk shows, where the host expounds, uninterrupted, about government policy or social issues. Rachel Parris, a stand-up comedian, delves into topical issues and pokes fun at politicians.

Promisingly, though the show has attracted a smaller audience than is expected of a 10pm slot, the BBC is giving it time to improve. Perhaps the controllers sense that in trying times, good comedy is essential.

Bbc eyes late-night comedy chat-show move with ‘tonight with…’

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