“D.L. Hughley Breaks the News”
Saturdays at 10 p.m.
CNN

4 out of 5 stars

For normal people, the end of the campaign season should be a relief. The populace was shaking with excitement during the primaries and happily supporting their candidates through thick and thin after the conventions — but then something happened. People got tired of the same stump speeches, the same arguments and the same issues. By the time they reached the voter booth they just wanted to get this shit over with already.

But for those working in television — specifically, fake news and late-night comedy shows — the end of the campaign season could end up being more like a swift kick to the groin than a welcoming blanket of bliss. The presidential election season triggered a massive boost in ratings for shows like “The Daily Show,” “The Colbert Report” and “Saturday Night Live” in its final few months. The “SNL” episode featuring Sarah Palin, for one, drew the show’s largest audience in 14 years. The question remains, however, whether the abnormally high interest this election season sparked for these shows will stick.

A most unlikely network, CNN, is willing to bet that it will, and is planning to capitalize on this renewed interest in political satire by debuting its own fake news-sketch comedy hybrid, “D.L. Hughley Breaks the News.” And while it appears CNN was wise in choosing D.L. Hughley (“Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip”) — a budding host with great potential — the show’s current time slot will prevent it from achieving anything close to the fanfare the twin titans (Stewart and Colbert) of Comedy Central currently enjoy.

It was apparent from the show’s premiere that Hughley is a little rough around the edges in his new hosting role. He repeatedly stuttered, misread cues and paused awkwardly during many of his interviews. The amazing thing, though, is that Hughley’s inviting smile, easy-going attitude and constant bouts of laughter make these miscues seem like peripheral concerns. Plus, its likely that after a few episodes Hughley will hone his hosting abilities and find his flow. He also possesses a capability that can’t be learned, one that serves as a testament to his raw talent: he doesn’t just talk with his guests, he connects deeply with them. People seem extra calm around him, and his conversations with a wide variety of individuals — like a physicist, beauty pageant winner and former Bush administration official — appear genuine.

Given all these initial successes, its hard to understand why Hughley’s show runs at 10 p.m on Saturday nights. Several CNN execs have said that they’re hoping “D.L. Hughley Breaks the News” can serve as an appetizer for TV watchers who regularly dine on “SNL,” which runs on Saturday nights at 11:30 p.m. This scenario doesn’t seem too likely, and in all probability the Saturday night slot will end up hurting the show. Many of the most loyal fans of “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report” are between 20 and 30 years old, and Hughley would benefit by catering to that demographic. Instead of a 10 p.m. Saturday night slot, Hughley would likely attract more viewers with a weeknight time.

It’s hard to blame CNN for its scheduling agenda, though. After all, its primary focus is real news, not fake. But if CNN is truly committed to making Hughley a big-time player, it needs to take his up-and-coming show off the backburner and let him do his thing in front of a larger audience. CNN’s got something noticeably special in “D.L. Hughley Breaks the News,” and while it may seem like an odd move for the king of cable news, the network needs to start taking its fake news show a little more seriously.

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