David Walliams to host first of ITV’s US-style late night shows

From Drew Barrymore dancing on a desk to Kanye West in tears as Stevie Wonder plays harmonica and Barack Obama “slow-jamming” the news, late night talk shows have offered some of the most compelling entertainment on American television for decades.

It is a format that has failed to excite UK audiences but for eight weeks next year, ITV will attempt to show Britain why late night TV has become a staple of US schedules.

Hoping to emulate the success of Jimmy Fallon, Steven Colbert, and James Cordon, ITV’s News at Ten will be pushed back for half an hour to make room for a new talk and entertainment programme, The Nightly Show. It will be hosted by a different “big name” each week, starting with David Walliams.

Walliams said he is “thrilled” to be hosting the show’s first week. He has also recorded a string of Christmas appearances on ITV and the BBC, including the sketch series Walliams and Friend, which debuts on Friday.

ITV’s head of comedy entertainment, Peter Davey, has promised a “bold new show” and an “eight week entertainment treat for viewers”, but no other hosts have been revealed. Second Act Productions, the ITV Studios subsidiary making the show, said Walliams will “set the tone” for the series.

Channel 5’s entertainment commissioning editor Steve Regan, who oversaw the four-nights-a-week Up Late With Rylan this year, said the choice of Walliams to launch The Nightly Show “makes perfect sense”. However, without a host dedicated to the whole run, he said it would be difficult to match the polish of US shows.

“I would want to know that the person wants to commit,” he said. “When you look at the States, when you watch [The Late Late Show’s] James Corden and [Tonight’s] Jimmy Fallon, the content is brilliant, the interviews, the games they play, they’ve been taken really, really seriously … you know they are completely immersed in that editorially.”

However, one top talent agent said the one-week slots may make it easier to persuade big names to take a risk on an unproven format.

“This is a very generous thing for the talent by [ITV director of television] Kevin Lygo because it keeps the pressure on the broadcaster, not the talent, which means he gets good talent,” he said. “If it works Kevin is a genius, if it doesn’t he goes ‘we tried’.”

The revolving cast of The Nightly Show may limit comparisons to Corden’s The Late Late Show which, despite failing to match the ratings of competing programmes, has had a huge impact on the web with social media-friendly segments such as Carpool Karaoke and Drop the Mic rap battles featuring big-name stars. Both segments are getting their own spin-off shows.

The success of Corden, who was relatively unknown in the US, has been all the more unexpected because his debut came a year after the cancellation of Piers Morgan’s talk show, which lost ratings after being moved from its 9pm slot on CNN.

The format, made up of comedic monologues on current affairs intertwined with celebrity interviews and sketches, is a fixture of US television, airing five nights a week from 11:30pm.

It began with The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, now hosted by Jimmy Fallon, while other stars include Steven Colbert, who began on The Daily Show and took over from David Letterman last year as the host of CBS’s The Late Show, and Seth Myers, who presents Late Night.

Comedy Central’s Daily Show, formerly hosted by Jon Stewart and now by Trevor Noah, is alsopopular and is based around satirising the news. Netflix has run the Chelsea Handler show three days a week.

In contrast, few attempts to recreate the success have come off in the UK, despite being fronted by big names, such as Johnny Vaughan and Danny Baker. Graham Norton had success with a five-nights-a week show which ran from May 2002 to the end of 2003.

Success for ITV’s Nightly Show could lead to one constant host but it would have implications for the News at Ten. Lygo has said there are no plans to permanently shift the half-hour news programme, which has in the past suffered from irregular time slots, leading some to nickname it the “News at When”.

Since relaunching a year ago with Tom Bradby as anchor it has notched up positive reviews but failed to make a significant dent in ratings against the BBC’s 10pm bulletin. It regularly attracts close to 4 million viewers, compared to 2.5 million for ITV’s News At Ten.