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Without an audience, late-night shows are rediscovering the fundamental values that make them unique

  • This week, late-night shows returned to TV in "radically different, minimalist forms," says David Itzkoff of the late-night hosts filming under coronavirus quarantine. "Gone are the lavish studios, elaborately produced field segments and cushy face-to-face conversations with celebrity guests. Instead, the hosts are delivering their nightly monologues into iPhones from home and conducting their interviews by video conference. Now that their shows are up and running, the people behind them say their continuing challenge is to provide viewers — for whom television has become one of a few remaining outlets for information and fresh entertainment — with a sense of comfort and continuity while commenting on events that have turned increasingly dire." “We’re in a weird space,” said Trevor Noah, whose The Daily Social Distancing Show has mixed its trademark satire of current events with a bit of public service. “It feels like the end of the world, and it’s not, but we also cannot treat it like nothing is happening. So we do have to find that balance.” For Jimmy Fallon, his Tonight Show: At Home Edition has showcased his family, including his show-stealing young daughters. “For us, these shows have been about the presenting idea that we’re all going through this together,” said Tonight Show executive producer Gavin Purcell. “People are adjusting to working from home, and what is it like to be stuck there? People have let Jimmy into their homes forever, and he thought it might be cool to let them into his home.” Molly McNearney, Jimmy Kimmel's wife and a producer and co-head writer of Jimmy Kimmel Live!, says it's a challenge to produce a show at home without the usual staff. “It took three hours to shoot six minutes,” she said. “Just trying to get his eye line correct took forever. He’s used to having a teleprompter guy and a team of 140 people helping him there...I was the prop master and camera person and lighting person. We didn’t even worry about hair and makeup.” Last week, Seth Meyers realized he wasn't advanced as most YouTubers in filming himself at home. “YouTubers are saying, ‘Dude, your lights; your sound,'" said Late Night executive producer Mike Shoemaker. “Of course YouTubers are good at this. We’re not good at it.” Jeff Ross, Conan O'Brien's executive producer from the very beginning in 1993, counted on their years of experience to get through the coronavirus pandemic. “Look, we went through 9/11,” Ross said. “We went through the writers’ strikes. We just said we have to do it.”

    TOPICS: The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, ABC, Comedy Central, NBC, Conan, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Late Night with Seth Meyers, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Conan O'Brien, Gavin Purcell, Jeff Ross_(Producer), Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, Mike Shoemaker, Molly McNearney, Seth Meyers, Trevor Noah, Coronavirus, Late Night