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Why Has the Old ‘Colbert Report’ Time Slot Been Such a Black Hole for Comedy Central?

Jordan Klepper’s “The Opposition” is latest series to fail at 11:30 p.m. in channel’s post-Colbert era

Last Updated: June 15, 2018 @ 12:39 PM

“The Colbert Report” came to a close in December 2014. Since then, nothing has stuck in Comedy Central’s 11:30 p.m. time slot.

That trend continued on Friday, when the Viacom cable channel announced it was ending Jordan Klepper’s “The Opposition” after just one season. Comedy Central isn’t sending Klepper as a talent packing, however, as he’s getting a weekly primetime series at the network.

After the finale of “The Opposition” airs on June 28, repeats of “The Office” will temporarily take over 11:30 until Comedy Central comes up with a permanent (as permanent as any of these plug-ins have been) solution for the half-hour. It’s been a familiar pattern, one that is hopefully solved by the latest round of late-night development over there.

Weeks after “Colbert” ended so Stephen Colbert could take his CBS gig, “The Nightly Show With Larry Wilmore” debuted behind Jon Stewart’s “Daily Show.” Even that rollout didn’t go as originally planned, however, as a copyright issue forced Comedy Central to change the title of its newest late-night effort from the original (and much better) working one, “The Minority Report.”

You see, a terrible drama of the same name — an adaptation of Tom Cruise’s 2002 feature film — was in the works at Fox. And we simply couldn’t have weathered that confusion on TV. Wilmore outlasted the broadcast series, for whatever that is worth.

Even so, Wilmore¬†lasted two just seasons, bridging his “Daily Show” lead-in from the classic Stewart era to the ongoing (and steam-gaining) Trevor Noah one. In search of better TV ratings, Comedy Central filled Wilmore’s spot with original episodes of Chris Hardwick’s “@midnight” — yes, @11:30 — until executives there settled on “The Opposition” as its new “Colbert.” And that kind of made sense.

“The Opposition” was strikingly similar to “The Colbert Report” in tone. Both “Daily Show” correspondent alums Colbert and Klepper played conservative characters on their own shows, with the former personality striking a Bill O’Reilly tone vs. the latter’s Alex Jones energy.

Unfortunately, the resemblance in overall approach did not result in parity of Nielsen numbers, nor critical reception.

The fact that Comedy Central has had a tough time filling Colbert’s shoes “just points out how hard it is” to make quality late-night TV, Brad Adgate,¬†an independent media consultant and former senior vice president at Horizon Media, told TheWrap.

And the loss of Stewart looms larger than just how 11-11:30 performs. For years, Comedy Central had Stewart not only to provide a strong lead-in, but also to cultivate talent. Adgate compared Stewart’s role to “Saturday Night Live” head honcho Lorne Michaels.

In fact, if you look at the late-night landscape, outside of Jimmy Kimmel and James Corden, everyone that has had any success is from either Stewart’s version of “The Daily Show” or “SNL.” Even those he’s found his groove as a host, what Noah is lacking is Stewart’s ability to create a roster of talent, including Colbert, Samantha Bee and John Oliver, each of whom have experienced success on their own.

“Can [Noah] actually find talent and find a suitable companion the way Jon Stewart has been able to do it?” Adgate continued. “Is there a bullpen of talent in that show, where they can say this person can do it on his own the way Colbert did? They haven’t found that yet and they may never find it.”

So, for now, it is reruns of “The Office” at 11:30, which only bolsters Adgate’s point. After all, before he was Michael Scott, Steve Carell was screaming at Colbert for the benefit of Stewart’s audience during the trio’s shared “Daily Show” tenure.

Remember those days? We sure do — and probably *almost* as fondly as Comedy Central does.

Comedy Central declined to participate in this story.