For all the Carsons, Lenos, Lettermans and O’Briens, there are many other late night shows – born with great hope and sometimes star power – that fail to catch fire with audiences, earning a spot in history’s dustbin. Some are jokes and cautionary tales like The Chevy Chase Show and The Magic Hour and others are just forgotten like any other discarded show despite often spending hundreds of hours on television.
By virtue of its short lifespan, The Pete Holmes Show - who, according to host Pete Holmes, will air its last episode on June 18th - won’t likely have a long life in our collective memories, but it deserves more than that assured oblivion.
Born on TBS at the end of October to serve as a companion series to Conan (and produced by Conan O’Brien), The Pete Holmes Show features a notably casual interpretation of late night comedy conventions. Interviews often steer well clear of the canned-story/promo clip standard, with Holmes often leaving the studio all together to play with comics, athletes, actors and other figures like Deepak Chopra and Trixie Garcia while occasionally engaging in philosophical discussions. Besides the “31 Flavors” approach to celebrity interviews, Holmes’ show also featured original sketch comedy bits, a non-topical monologue and an eagerness to try new and occasionally weird things; and it is that trait that we may miss most of all, because “rule breakers” and purveyors of the comically absurd like Letterman, O’Brien, Craig Ferguson and even Holmes give nightly late night its soul and they are (save for O’Brien) a suddenly disappearing lot.
With that said, however, Holmes’ cancellation isn’t an injustice that boggles the mind. Being a part of TBS’ late night lineup is obviously not easy if you don’t have Conan O’Brien’s name recognition (ask George Lopez) thanks in part to the network’s weak original programming slate and Holmes’ ratings tell that story. If we’re looking to assign blame for that, we might start with Holmes’ less than standard guest list, which is rewarding as a regular viewer, but not the best way to bring in new viewers on a nightly basis. Besides that, and despite the fact that Holmes displayed plenty of other sketches during his run, the abundance of Ex-Men and Red Tape sketches may have hurt, or at least not helped as much as they could have in that they seemed to become less of an attention generating “event” as they continued to role out. These are minor things, though, when you compare them to the popularity of Holmes’ competition and the show’s unlucky timing – the show debuted against @Midnight‘s surprising success in October and then went up against that show and the last half hour of the re-energized Tonight Show when Jimmy Fallon took over in February.
Should TBS have shown The Pete Holmes Show more patience? The desire is to say yes and expect these networks to keep on shows based on promise and quality, but eventually they can’t justify the expense or a hopeful forecast and this is one of those business decisions that are easy to hate but easier to understand and accept.
As for what TBS’ next move is with the midnight hour, that is anyone’s guess. Though Conan O’Brien will likely have a say since he’ll be sticking around for another three years, it seems likely that TBS might insist that he look further than his own staff since both Holmes and writer Deon Cole had O’Brien backed shows that failed to attain the grace of longevity.
Holmes’ future is equally up in the air but he does seem determined to do something similar according to his positive farewell post on Facebook following news of the cancellation.
“I feel like we’ve been given a calling card, a body of work that survives past this show being on the air. I feel a little silly, like Braveheart or something, screaming, “THIS IS NOT THE END!” But it’s not. We are going out to see where our style fits and makes the most sense and in what way.”
Before the #PeteyPeteLateLate Tweets start flying in an effort to get Holmes’ name into the Late Late Show conversation, though, let’s remember how rare it is for a late night host to bust on one network only to immediately soar on another. Conan O’Brien’s example is exempted due to extenuating circumstances, but when we look at other success stories like Dennis Miller and Jon Stewart, who respectively failed in syndication and on MTV in the 90s, it’s important to remember that each changed up their style a bit to find that success (most notably, Stewart). Will Holmes do the same, refining his loose approach to something that is spiritually similar and still unique but perhaps more palpable to the masses? As talented as Holmes is, we certainly hope so.
The Pete Holmes Show will air new episodes until June 18th on TBS Monday through Thursday @12AM