If hosting a late-night show is a marathon, Lilly Singh bounded into her NBC series with plenty of energy, some promising moments and a few easily corrected stumbles.
Filling the later-night slot after Seth Meyers, “A Little Late With Lilly Singh” represents a breakthrough, with Singh – a Canadian of Indian descent – as the first woman of color to host such a network franchise.
Singh introduced herself with a sketch in which she explained how her show would be different to a bunch of frat-boy-type white executives, followed by an exuberant rap addressing those issues, saying “I’m gonna throw some melanin up in your latenight” and “I ain’t talking about Donald unless his last name is Glover.”
So far, so pretty good. After that, though, there were some noticeable tics as Singh opened with a brief monologue, then hosted a pair of “The Office” alumni, Rainn Wilson and Mindy Kaling.
Wilson’s shtick fell mostly flat, while Singh’s interview with Kaling suffered because the host kept looking directly into the camera to deliver lines, which broke the sense that the two were engaging in a dialogue.
That proved an unfortunate distraction, since Kaling – who wrote and starred in the recent movie “Late Night,” about a female host and writer of color integrating her staff – had some genuine insights to share. Having grown up watching late-night television without seeing people who looked like her, she said, “It was like loving something that didn’t love me back.”
Singh closed the interview with another scripted bit – quizzing Kaling on slang terms – which, again, wasn’t as engaging as their conversation. As a comedic performer, Singh might not feel wholly comfortable in the interviewing role, but the reality of these series is it’s tough to fill the nightly grind without relying on those segments to flesh out episodes.
Singh nevertheless feels like a breath of fresh air in a late-night landscape largely characterized by its sameness, and brings an established following from YouTube videos along with her. (NBC gave Monday’s premiere an early streaming debut via that platform.)
Virtually any late-night venture requires trial and error, as evidenced by the evolution of the two NBC shows that precede Singh. Given that, “A Little Late” should have what it appears to need most – namely, a little time to settle on the right balance of elements.
“A Little Late With Lilly Singh” airs weeknights at 1:38 a.m. on NBC.