Arts and Entertainment | Perspective
March 29, 2017 at 7:00 AM
It's a good time to be in late-night television. Donald Trump's unorthodox presidency has primed America's appetite for shrewd commentary from a range of hosts including Stephen Colbert, Seth Meyers, Trevor Noah, Samantha Bee, Bill Maher and John Oliver. Even more entertainment-minded hosts (Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel and James Corden) have upped their political ante to varying degrees of success.
But those are just the prominent examples. Late-night's increasingly crowded roster has given way to a number of intriguing alternatives. We've rounded up four shows that add to the conversation while breaking late-night TV's traditional mold.
DESUS & MERO
The gist: Bronx-bred comedy duo Desus Nice and The Kid Mero offer frank and spirited takes on the day's headlines from behind a graffiti-covered desk, which they occasionally swap for two scholarly-looking leather armchairs. The New York Times aptly describes Viceland's first late-night show as "loose, cheerful and profane."
Recent guests: Actor Jesse Williams, MSNBC host Chris Hayes, singer Faith Evans, activist Johnetta Elzie (each of whom sat sandwiched between the hosts on their no-frills set).
What you might be missing: Refreshingly candid celebrity interviews and hip-hop-fluent banter.
In a December appearance on the show, Rashida Jones recalled being bitten by Michael Jackson's famed chimpanzee, Bubbles, when she was a teenager. Hayes, in an earlier appearance, detailed his high school run-ins with rapper Immortal Technique and "Hamilton" creator Lin-Manuel Miranda.
The hosts, who honed their comedic rapport on Complex's web series Desus vs. Mero and their long-running podcast "Bodega Boys," also use their hip-hop and social media savvy to explain news in unique ways. Take, for example, their NSFW analysis of Diddy's new charter school, where, Desus mused, "Your kids could learn the Harlem Shake and give people terrible record deals."
How to watch: Desus & Mero airs Monday through Thursday nights at 11 p.m. on Viceland (formerly H2). You can also watch episodes on Viceland's website through your cable provider or peruse highlights on the show's official YouTube channel.
WATCH WHAT HAPPENS LIVE WITH ANDY COHEN
The gist: Andy Cohen hosts celebrity pairs (often associated with Bravo or other NBC-owned properties) for a round of drinks, games and gossip in an intimate audience-filled studio dubbed the clubhouse.
Recent guests: Actor Samuel L. Jackson, actress Allison Williams, "Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" star Lisa Rinna, Fox News contributor Meghan McCain, model Naomi Campbell.
What you might be missing: Interesting if low-stakes celebrity confessions and shade.
One recent episode found Sanaa Lathan weighing in on long-simmering rumors that she dated rapper French Montana. The clubhouse is also where Jennifer Lawrence admitted she has kissed Liam Hemsworth off-screen ("Liam and I grew up together. Liam's real hot," the Oscar winner said, smiling coyly.) Last year, Mariah Carey gave an in-depth report on the layers of not knowing Jennifer Lopez.
Now in its 14th season, WWHL also gives frequent updates on reality star beefs (because multi-part reunion shows aren't enough for some fans). And since the alcoholic beverages are always flowing, some guests get hilariously tipsy.
How to watch: "Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen" airs every Sunday through Thursday nights at 11 p.m. on Bravo. You can also watch episodes on Bravo's website through your cable provider or peruse highlights there or on WWHL's official YouTube channel.
UNCOMMON SENSE LIVE
The gist: Charlamagne Tha God, who hosts Power 105's boisterous morning show "The Breakfast Club," takes a weekly look at pop culture and politics with the help of panelists including comedian Jordan Carlos and The Read co-host Crissle West.
Recent guests: Former CBS anchor Dan Rather, TV personality and GQ host Keith Olbermann, author and Georgetown professor Michael Eric Dyson, rapper Killer Mike.
What you might be missing: No-holds-barred critiques of the Trump administration and often-overlooked perspectives.
"Daylight savings is this Sunday, but we may not need it because Ben Carson just set us back 400 years," Charlamagne quipped after the Housing and Urban Development secretary likened slaves to immigrants.
The show shifted to a live format for its third season, allowing viewers and guests to send questions in real time via video chat and social media. After Trump's meeting with representatives from historically black colleges and universities generated headlines and memes, "Uncommon Sense" featured a first-hand account from Dillard University president Walter M. Kimbrough, who explained over video chat that the HBCU leaders had really been at the White House to speak with education secretary Betsy DeVos. Meeting the president "was really a spur-of-the-moment type of deal," Kimbrough said.
How to watch: "Uncommon Sense Live" airs Friday at 11:30 on MTV2.
@MIDNIGHT WITH CHRIS HARDWICK
The gist: Ubiquitous TV host Chris Hardwick and a trio of comedians riff on politics and Internet culture in a game-show format.
Recent guests: "Saturday Night Live" cast member Sasheer Zamata, "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" star Stephanie Beatriz, comedian Ricky Velez, comedian Flula Borg.
What you might be missing: Expert comedic timing and Internet jokes from people who understand the Internet.
Hardwick, who hosts 100 different shows (okay, more like three) isn't really the draw here, though he has certainly gained a following helming aftershows for AMC's "The Walking Dead" and "Better Call Saul." Watch for the guest comedians, who need to be able to think on their feet, as Hardwick challenges them to create hashtag-inspired puns (while viewers tweet their own takes), help him get Alec Baldwin to unblock him on Twitter or introduce Trump Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch as if he were a stand-up comic coming to the stage.
The show has also been known to surprise viewers with more high-profile celebrity guests. Last October, Will Ferrell stopped by to talk about the presidential election — as George W. Bush.
How to watch: @Midnight airs Monday through Thursday nights at 11:30 p.m. on Comedy Central. (Per its title, the show used to air at midnight but was moved up when the network canceled "The Nightly Show With Larry Wilmore.") You can also watch full episodes on Comedy Central's website.