ITV’s The Nightly Show, and the tricky task of translating a US staple


Amidst the launch of ITV’s The Nightly Show and rumours James Corden’s The Late Late Show (complete with Carpool Karaoke) could be coming to the UK, we take a look at a TV format that historically has struggled to translate across the pond.

Stretching the mould

Last month saw the launch of Britain’s latest answer to America’s late night entertainment giants, with The Nightly Show airing on ITV at 10pm every week night for the next eight weeks – bumping the ’10 o’clock’ news into a somewhat-less-catchy 10.30pm slot.

Modelling itself on a US format that includes programmes such as The Tonight Show and the Late Show – and has turned Britain’s own James Corden into a US household name – ITV’s The Nightly Show comprises topical monologues, comedy sketches and celebrity chat, with a new host each week.

But despite a number of long-running, highly successful chat shows fronted by the likes of Michael Parkinson, Graham Norton and Jonathan Ross, so far the UK has been unable to stretch such a programme to fit the glossy, multi-faceted mould of a US-style nightly show.

Big budgets and bigger names

The transition from a successful weekly show to a successful nightly show requires big budgets. Producing a daily programme that reacts to the news every 24 hours and includes a diverse range of features, from monologues to sketches and chat, requires huge resources, commitment and funds – especially if it is to be delivered as slickly as it is in the US.

Budget aside, it’s still far easier for the US to produce these types of shows – which rely heavily on a steady stream of high quality talent. In this respect, the US will always be one step ahead of the UK, with such a large pool of Hollywood A-list stars to keep viewers hooked.  The Conversation has claimed that James Corden’s Carpool Karaoke would not have been anywhere near as successful without the calibre of talent it was able to recruit in the US (including then first lady, Michelle Obama).

New news

While the pressure to shape content around daily news stories is challenging, it also represents the opportunity at the heart of the model. As ITV struggles to compete with BBC News in the 10 o’clock slot, could this new model be an attractive option, catering to a different audience?

ITV’s director of television, Kevin Lygo, has said The Nightly Show will offer a “real alternative” to the BBC news, but he will not make a decision on whether News at Ten will be permanently displaced until the end of the eight-week run.

But is the appetite for a news-alternative as big here as it is across the pond? Cultural historian Joe Moran argues that, while a lot of daily show viewers in the US use them as a primary news source, ‘We’re a bit more news-obsessed here in the UK. We’re a much smaller country and we have a different press culture.’

Trump Bump

The tendency in the US to look to both daily and weekly shows for news-related content is evident in recent viewing figures, which have hit record-breaking numbers since the election of President Trump. The LA Times reports that ‘waves of TV viewers are turning to late-night comedy to cope with their angst over the new administration. This idea is supported by statements from viewers of a live broadcast of the Late Show, including Yasmin Merchant, 22, who said “I want to keep up with what’s going on and not get sad.”

Comedy has a long history of helping audiences get through tumultuous times. As Britain continues on the political roller-coaster boarded in June last year, could we finally be ready to embrace the light-hearted distraction of a nightly programme to see us through? Reactions to ITV’s latest offering suggest not – reviews have been mixed, rising and falling as quickly as the revolving hosts, and overall viewing figures have been lower than hoped.

The butcher, the baker, the candlestick comedy maker

Some have suggested that, while bold, ITV’s decision to use a new host each week means it lacks the ‘conspiratorial air’ of shows in the US, created by long-standing presenters who are able to foster a relationship with their audiences over time. Next week sees Chef Gordon Ramsey take over the reins from Dermot O’Leary, one of the more positively received presenters along with Davina McCall, before Bradley Walsh and then Jason Manford enter the hot seat.

We’re reserving judgement until the end of The Nightly Show’s eight week run, and remain optimistic that ITV’s attempt to replicate a programme model that is such a staple of the US TV landscape could pave the way for more of its type – even if it is just an imported version of Carpool Karaoke hosted by exported British talent!


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Image source: ITV

About Claire Sansom

Claire is an Associate Director at MTM, working in the quantitative team. Inspired by a passion for understanding behaviour, she helps some of the biggest brands in the media and technology sector to connect with people in new and exciting ways.