What’s so special about 11 p.m. Thursdays?
Thursdays are the new Fridays, or Must-See TV has shifted from primetime to late-night in 2016, because both the History channel and truTV are jumping into the comedy fray with weekly ventures in the 11 p.m. hour (Eastern/Pacific) that include throwing all sorts of short-form webseries length content together. Just as Adult Swim has been doing nightly since the turn of the century.
At any rate, your comedy choices late-night Thursday on the TV now have multiplied exponentially.
History debuts Join or Die with Craig Ferguson tonight with two back-to-back half-hour episodes. The series will feature Ferguson (who has a forearm tattoo modeled after Benjamin Franklin’s “Join or Die” rallying cry to his American colonists) talking American history with comedians, historians and celebrity guests.
The rest of the 22-episode order for Join or Die will be complemented, starting next week (Feb. 25, 2016), by a new half-hour of comedy anthologies called Night Class.
Paul Cabana, History’s executive vice president and head of programming, said today: “History is excited to forge new territory in the late-night landscape with compelling and bold content that will speak to a new audience,” said Cabana. “Night Class is rooted in real fact, yet full of razor sharp humor and wit.”
He also told AdWeek: “When I see people talk about some of the things they’re watching, it’s on the fringes of the schedule, the things that really push the creative, like a late-night comedy experiment. And I realized that was new territory we could explore.”
The three short-form series that’ll make up Night Class each half-hour include:
- Great Minds with Dan Harmon – Created by Dan Harmon (“Community,” “Rick and Morty”) and Richard Korson (“The Daily Show”, “Those Who Can’t”), the series follows Harmon who invests in a time machine and is subsequently visited by history’s greatest minds. Harmon discusses his visitors’ lives and brings them out into the modern world, embarking on an adventure that drops these famous historical figures right into today’s advanced society. With guest appearances by Jack Black, Sarah Silverman, Jason Sudeikis, Dana Carvey, Aubrey Plaza, Kristen Schaal, Nick Kroll, Scott Adsit, Andy Dick, Ron Funches, Paul F. Tompkins, Thomas Middleditch and Robert Smigel.
- Crossroads of History – Created and written by Elizabeth Shapiro, the scripted short form series examines the fascinating and largely unknown moments in history that have shaped the world. “Crossroads of History” will lift the veil on famous events and expose little known but historically accurate facts of the story, such as: how President Lincoln’s alcoholic bodyguard, John Parker, chose the wrong night to leave his post at the Ford Theatre and how rejection from art school set a young artist, Adolf Hitler, on a very different career path. Featuring Lou Diamond Phillips, Brian Baumgartner, Angela Kinsey, Keir O’Donnell, Jack McBrayer, Wayne Knight, Lloyd Ahlquist and Paul Scheer.
- How to Lose the Presidency – Throughout the history of presidential elections there are always those inspirational moments that propel a candidate to victory. These are not those moments. How to Lose the Presidency showcases real clips of embarrassing moments and mistakes from Howard Dean’s scream heard round the world and Rick Perry’s time of forgetfulness to outrageous moments in the current presidential campaign.
truTV, meanwhile, gets into the late-night act a couple of Thursdays from now, starting at 11 p.m. ET/PT on March 3, 2016, with a collection of comedy shorts under the umbrella of Late Night Snack (Series Premiere).
Late Night Snack will start with a 10-week run, featuring the following shorts:
- Alec Baldwin’s Love Ride: Renowned International Relationship Expert Alec Baldwin takes surprised but game couples for a ride in his office/limo, learning their stories and providing them with hilarious (and sometimes poignant) relationship advice. Alec’s famous & funny friends also join in the action, following the star and his “Love Ride” closely behind in a separate car and offering their own advice in Alec’s unending quest to save all relationships on Earth. Produced by Above Average and El Dorado Pictures.
- Austin Martinez Comedy: New York-based comedy duo Molly Austin and Shamikah Martinez create original characters and songs with topics ranging from manliness to how much of that marijuana brownie you should really eat. Produced by Mad Pictures.
- Benjamin the Cat: Human-sized cat mascot Benjamin the Cat made his debut on Impractical Jokers and has since become a fan favorite. Now in his own series of shorts, fans follow Benjamin’s exploits as he tries holding down a real person job in an office filled with humans – something he quickly learns is easier said than done. Produced by North South.
- Celebrity Storytelling (working title): A series of animated shorts during which famous Hollywood actors, comedians and musicians recall (and often disremember or completely fabricate) the greatest childhood stories, fairy tales and literary classics of all time. The celebrities struggle to recall well-known literary tales completely from memory, with their recollections brought to life through an assortment of unique animation styles. Produced by Ben Kalina and Dave Newberg of Titmouse Animation.
- Cocktales with Little Esther: A chat show in which comedian Esther Povitsky sits down with a group of fellow female comics for a fun and silly chat about our often awkward relationship with sex. Produced by Two Trick Pony in partnership with Above Average.
- D-Sides: It ain’t easy running D-Sides, a failing record store that boasts one of the rarest collections of long-lost and never-before-heard records from the world’s most famous artists. And when a rival hipster record store moves in next door stealing D-Sides’ business, best friends and owners, Neil (Neil Hopkins, Lost) and John (John Forest, Young Adult), make a play to save their store. Each week they unveil a rare gem (D-side) in the form of a music video that will blow any music lover away. Executive Produced by Krysia Plonka & Tracey Baird of Thank You Brain! Productions.
- Found Footage Files: Childhood friends, lifelong video collectors and VHS purists Joe Pickett (The Onion) and Nick Prueher (Late Show with David Letterman) report on location from the site of their favorite VHS finds. Thrift stores, storage lockers and public access stations serve as the backdrop as the duo introduces clips from these long-lost video relics, telling the stories behind the tapes and offering up their comedic observations from over 20 years in the video trenches. Produced by Found Footage Festival.
- Passive Aggressive History: A comedic look at defining moments in history through the imagined petty conversations of the legendary individuals who lived them. Whether it’s the infighting crew of the Apollo 11 or the frenemies of colonial Salem, the series chronicles every eye roll, backhanded compliment, and clench-toothed smile behind the iconic events that shaped our world. Produced by Lost Moon Radio.
- Reign of Terror: Written by Kathreen Khavari and Chuck Neal, this short follows a roundtable discussion of several eclectic characters – all played by Khavari – that keeps veering off-track. Produced by LDM & Brain of Terror LLC.
- The Screen Test: From Edmond Hawkins, a comedy where actors are misdirected and pushed to extremes on an audition that, unbeknownst to them, will be used as the final product of a televised comedic short. Produced by Carbine Entertainment.
- Don’t Be That Guy (with Tripp & Tyler): Based on a handful of sketches called, “Don’t Be That Guy,” the series follows Tripp & Tyler as they make some of life’s easiest situations difficult. How far will Tripp go to get the perfect Instagram photo of his latte? How many different tactics does Tyler have up his sleeve for getting out of a boring conversation at a party? All of the sketches are highly relatable to most normal people who find themselves alive in America in 2016. Produced by Green Tricycles Studios.
- Hope and Randy (working title): A quirky, irreverent, romantic comedy about the sweet and awkward sexual explorations of a pair of 24 year-olds in their first serious relationship. Produced by Two Trick Pony in association with Maker Studios.