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CBS’ Taylor Tomlinson Late Night Series ‘After Midnight’ Premieres: ‘It’s Gonna Be Fun, Right?’

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CBS gave its new late night series “After Midnight” a bit of a soft launch on Tuesday night, premiering the show with minimal fanfare in its 12:37 a.m. timeslot behind “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.” Comedian Taylor Tomlinson hosts the series, which tapes on the Paramount lot in Hollywood.

The decision to keep the “After Midnight” premiere lowkey is by design: Allow the new show to find its voice over the next few weeks, prior to the Super Bowl and return of first-run scripted series in February, when more eyeballs will be back at the broadcast networks.

“I’m Taylor Tomlinson and this is ‘After Midnight, where three comedians enter, one wins and two will regret participating,” she said in opening the first episode. “We’re taking the internet and desperately trying to make it fun. It’s gonna be fun, right? Comedians, you’ll be competing for the grand prize of my father’s approval. It is rare but winnable!”

Comedians Whitney Cummings, Aparna Nancherla and Kurt Braunohler were the first round of comedians playing the game, in which panelists crack wise about pop culture, headlines and “the dumbest things on the internet.”

“After Midnight” looks like a game show, but the points are assigned at random by Tomlinson and based on the panelists’ responses. The show started with a segment dubbed “Group Chat,” in which she shared trending stories for the panelists to riff on.

The premiere episode was taped earlier on Tuesday — and for proof, Tomlinson referenced Monday night’s Emmy Awards. “No matter where you stand politically, you can’t deny the Emmys were yesterday,” Tomlinson said. “And I was there. They’ll invite anyone. Did you guys watch the Emmys?”

The comedians were silent. “There’s no obligation, it was on Fox,” she responded. “We don’t care here at CBS if you watched it! I was just making sure. So nobody watched the Emmys? TV’s dead? Great.”

Quipped Braunohler: “This will do well on the internet!”

Added Tomlinson: “I don’t even know what awards our show can possibly win, because it’s kind of a talk show where there’s no conversation. It’s a game show but the points are fake. It’s vanity project but it somehow makes me look worse. Panelists, what award would ‘After Midnight’ win at the Emmys?”

Braunohler buzzed in: “Best Female late night host! Sorry, only female late night host.”

In the “Hashtag” segment, the comedians were asked to come up with “lesser known TV shows,” like “Bottom Chef” and “NCIS: Modesto.”

Kurt Braunohler, Aparna Nancherla, Whitney Cummings. (Terence Patrick/CBS)
CBS

In “Tik Chopped,” Tomlinson and the panelists riffed on terrible TikTok cooking videos. In the game “What I Can’t Live About,” the comedians were shown random products and asked to describe why they need it. “Suburban Dictionary” featured real slang, like “bussin’,” asking the comedians to use the word in a sentence. “To Smash or Not to Smash” featured the comedians picking between who they’d rather: Mario or Luigi; Patrick Star or Sandy Cheeks; Garfield or Jon Arbuckle; Gritty or the Quaker Oats mascot. The elimination game “Is This Still Cool?” — in which, on Tuesday night comedians had to explain why or why not animal prints are still cool.

“Yes it is, but the lesser-known animals,” Braunohler said. Nancherla: “Yes, because with climate change it will be good to remember what they look like.” Cummings: “As an aspiring cougar, I need animal print to be in style. And if you don’t agree, you’re not a feminist.”

Cummings was first to be eliminated from the show, and asked to apologize for losing.

In “For the Win,” Braunohler and Nancherla were asked to create new holidays, with the audience voting on a winner.

Braunohler: “Today is Harbor Day: A celebration of America’s Harbors, the parking lots of the sea. That’s Harbor Day, not Arbor Day. Everybody knows what a tree is, so why doesn’t Arbor Day just shut the f— up and go with Tree Day. Sincerely, Harbor Day.” Nancherla: “Ashley Wednesday. It’s Ash Wednesday, for girls with bangs.” Nancherla won.

After a bit of a slow start (as both Tomlinson and the panelists were feeling out the guardrails on the new show), everyone got more punchy — and edgy, letting the bleeps start flying — as the hour progressed. Cummings in particular had fun with walking up to the line and seeing whether her jokes would make it on the air. Asked Tomlinson at one point: “Whitney, do you want to be in this episode?”

Guests later this week include Paul F. Tompkins, Sophie Buddle and Carl Tart on Wednesday, and Max Greenfield, Ike Barinholtz and Robby Hoffman on Thursday.

“After Midnight” takes over the slot previously held by “The Late Late Show with James Corden” (and briefly, by reruns of “Comics Unleashed with Byron Allen”). It’s based on “@midnight,” which followed “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report” from October 2013 to August 2017, and like the new show, was a panel series with mostly guest comedians interacting with host Chris Hardwick.

Last year Tomlinson sealed a deal with Netflix for her next two standup specials to premiere on the streamer. Tomlinson taped her latest special in Washington, D.C., for a 2024 premiere date.

Tomlinson saw her star rise in 2020 when “Quarter-Life Crisis” launched on Netflix right before the pandemic started. Meanwhile, Tomlinson is at work on a Village Roadshow Pictures film based on her upbringing, which she’s writing with Taylor Tetreau and will star in, for director Paul Weitz.

Jack Martin, showrunner on all four seasons of “@midnight,” and Eric Pierce serve as co-showrunners and executive producers. Comedian and writer Jo Firestone is co-executive producer and head writer. Alexx Wells also serves as co-executive producer.

CBS Studios produces “After Midnight” with Stephen Colbert’s Spartina Industries and Funny Or Die. Carrie Byalick, Stephen Colbert, Evelyn McGee Colbert, James Dixon, Tom Purcell, Whitney Hodack, Mike Farah, Joe Farrell, Henry R. Muñoz, Jason U. Nadler are also EPs with Martin and Pierce.