There’s been a stir recently about the new diversity in late-night, with three comedians of varied ethnic and social backgrounds, George Lopez, Wanda Sykes and Monique, each simultaneously launching talk shows.
However, for those who are interested in truly seeing the long-dominant hegemony of Jay, David and Conan actually challenged, ‘Lopez Tonight,’ which premieres tonight at 11 p.m. on both TBS and TNT, is your show.
As an out – and outspoken – African-American woman, Sykes, who premiered her new talker to strong ratings Saturday night, is on only once a week. And for her part, Monique’s new variety hour runs every night on BET. But the channel, which has 89 million subscribers, is still primarily targeted to African-American audiences.
Running five nights a week on Turner Networks’ two broadly focused mainstream outlets, TNT and TBS, it is Lopez who has the broadest forum, and as such, finds himself in direct competition with network late-night establishment.
Running at 11 o’clock – with all of the broadcast networks in local news mode – Lopez thinks he can carve out a niche.
“I’m on at 11 p.m., which is a really beautiful position to be in,” he said last summer at the Television Critics Association press tour.
Turner programming head Michael Wright sees an advantages in not having news lead in directly to ‘Lopez.’ On TBS, for example, ‘Family Guy’ repeats will lead directly into tonight’s premiere.
“We’ve got comedy leading into this four nights a week,” Wright explained. “Nobody else in late night can say that.”
Guest-wise, Lopez will start “the party” – the word he uses most often to describe a show he wants to be perceived as loosy-goosy – tonight with Ellen DeGeneres, Eva Longoria-Parker, Carlos Santana, Lakers star Kobe Bryant.
According to a Turner release, guests coming down the pike include Sandra Bullock, Ray Romano, Jamie Foxx, Charlie Sheen, Queen Latifah, Ted Danson, Larry David and Arsenio Hall.
Kathy Griffin is also on that roster, but ‘Lopez’ will have to stick to the “A-list” if it wants to keep up in one of the most competitive realms on television.
This week on ‘Letterman,’ for example, tennis legend Andre Agassi will be making one of his first TV appearances since making his much-talked-about drug-abuse revelations in his new biography.
For his part, however, Lopez thinks he has a competitive advantage – that is, a huge U.S. Latin audience that’s currently underserved in late night.
“I’m only feeling added pressure because apparently in some parts of the country I’m up against novellas,” he said.