Women are basically non-existent when it comes to late night television hosts. That landscape has been dominated with men for decades starting all the way back to Jack Paar (Original Host of The Tonight Show now inhabited by Jimmy Fallon) to the most recent hosts, Conan O’Brien, Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon, Seth Meyers and James Corden. Just a few months ago, the first woman in 30 years since Joan Rivers hosted The Tonight Show is Lilly Singh. Singh will debut into the late night landscape this fall on NBC with A Little Late Lilly Singh. It’s even worst for women in the writer’s rooms, even though the presence of powerhouses like Shonda Rhimes, Issa Rae, Lena Waithe, Ava Duvernay, Mara Brock Akil, Lena Dunham, Rachel Bloom and Mindy Kaling would suggest differently. The disparity of women, POC, non-binary, LGBTQ in the industry is shockingly poor, but hopefully all that will change as Amazon Studios’ Late Night hits screens starring Mindy Kaling and Emma Thompson.
Kaling has never been shy about bringing her own experiences and opinion to the forefront even when she was a writer on ‘The Office’ and ‘The Mindy Show,’ but she takes it to a whole new level with Late Night . Unapologetically calling out nepotism, sexism, ageism and racial profiling, Kaling infuses humor into a very real problematic issue prevalent within The Hollywood talk show community, writers room and hosting worlds.
Katherine Newbury (Emma Thompson) is a 50+ white woman who at one time was a blazing star on the nighttime talk show circuit. Feeling she is no longer relevant or funny, the network gives her walking papers with plenty of notice. In an effort to go out with some dignity and on a high note, she acerbically encourages her all white, all male writing staff to punch up the show. Enter Molly Patel (Mindy Kaling) who is literally a diversity hire. Molly, who has no experience as a writer or in television, now finds herself as the only female writer and the only one who’s honest about the quality of the show. Things begin to look promising when a wrench is thrown into everything which threatens to become the demise of all involved personally and professionally. ‘Have I Earned The Privilege of Your Time’ is Katherine’s signature sign off, but left me wondering why a female talk show host would use such a phrase. After a refreshing discussion with Late Night Director Nisha Ganatra, we discussed exactly that and she had an eye-opening answer.
Late Night is expertly written, but I would expect no less from Mindy Kaling as I am truly a fan of work. Pairing a female network executive, boss and writer who all come to the table with their own baggage is brilliant and lets the audience peer into a side of nighttime television that can be harsh, incredibly lonely and thankless. Women work hard an excel at nearly everything. We literally can bring life onto the planet, raise a whole family alone, run multi-million corporations, yet be comforting and a rock for those we love. Late Night will be an inspiration for women who are in a career transition, those figuring out their next chapter and young women who are new to the game of life, work politics and sheer survival. It’s hilarious, timely and not to be missed opening in limited release today and nationwide on June 14.