On the same day that budding late night personality John Oliver departed Comedy Central and The Daily Show, the network shored up its post-prime time lineup, renewing Chris Hardwick’s @Midnight for a 40-week season 2 that will start on January 6th.
The show – a mock quiz/panel show hybrid – has handily beat The Pete Holmes Show (another freshman late night entry) in the ratings and has performed well in the key demos, where it ranked third among all late night cable “talk” shows among viewers 18-34 and fourth among viewers 18-49.
Granted, sitting behind The Daily Show and The Colbert Report (which typically occupy the top spots among young viewers) gives @Midnight an advantage over the competition, but where credit is due, credit must be given, and Chris Hardwick’s late night laugher is quickly becoming the unofficial show of social media.
In our initial review, we openly questioned whether the internet had “enough juice to fuel a daily show,” but it seems clear that while the show’s panelists seem occasionally restrained by its format and its (occasionally) thin list of topics, others have made gold out of web junk straw.
There was also a concern that @Midnight didn’t possess the ability to reach viewers who were not “plugged in” to social media, but the show has seemingly converted twitter popularity into real viewers at a rate that nullifies concerns about its ability to reach the unconnected.
@Midnight isn’t the first show to integrate social media and web culture into its strategy and format – Late Night with Jimmy Fallon was an early adopter with his embrace of hashtags and Pete Holmes’ show is obviously aiming a lot of its sketch material at viral video consumers – but it may be the most organic. The show is, quite literally, born daily from the ooze of the internet, pulling in and riffing on the ridiculous and the absurd in a manner that matches the way people approach Twitter. @Midnight feels like it understands that, and that is likely what is driving its acceptance among young viewers.
The show’s success should also bode well for its ability to draw top-shelf talent. As noted when we discussed NBC’s revival of Last Comic Standing, shows like @Midnight offer a much more favorable exposure outlet for comics, and in the abbreviated first season, that was proven by the presence of Judd Apatow, David Spade, Scott Aukerman, and Patton Oswalt, among others. (Oswalt even recently tweeted “For a comedian, appearing on ‘To Catch a Predator’ is a better career boost than ‘Last Comic Standing.’ “)
That guest list figures to grow if @Midnight can maintain its foothold on young viewers, but it also makes one wonder if the success of @Midnight will pressure Comedy Central to push further into the midnight hour with additional programming (beyond the Adam Devine’s House Party experiment) at a time when – thanks to Fallon’s coming ascension to The Tonight Show over at NBC – more young late late night viewers might be up for grabs.
@Midnight returns to Comedy Central on January 6th @12am.