The Nightly Show – A lesson in bad chat

Every now and again British TV bosses, in the chase for better viewing figures, will stake all on a punt to shake things up. Rarely does it work because, Brits – when it comes to their TV at least – don’t like change. The latest punt is unfolding nightly on ITV at 10pm, where the traditional News at 10 slot has been taken over by the Nightly Show.

If you haven’t seen it, don’t worry. Within days of it airing viewer figures began plummeting and as the ‘trial period’ comes to an end, the only certainty is that the News will be returning to its original slot. Bad chat show performances aside it has nevertheless provided entertaining viewing, in the same way as classroom science experiments going wrong or magician’s tricks falling flat.

Over the past few weeks, the Nightly Show has rolled out comedians who are not presenters, presenters who are not all that funny, a celebrity chef with a penchant for swearing and a daytime game show host who is so unfamiliar I had to Google him. From the start, the Nightly Show looked to be on shaky ground. The idea of having a different host each week was a strange format to adopt, like some kind of light entertainment speed date.

It is hard not to have pity for the hosts. From the opening night the heat is on to create an immediate impression and to continue to impress for five nights, in an unfamiliar setting and show format, under the scrutiny of a live audience and a host of TV critics salivating for failure. At the end of this very public five night run, they hang up the mic and handover to the next host and hope that memories are short and the negative effect on their career isn’t long.

Lessons to learn from a bad chat show
It’s not hard to see the parallels between the challenges faced by the poor celebrity hosts of this chat show disaster and those in the business world who have to deliver speeches to a public audience from their own industry sectors. In both cases, there is a need to hit the ground running, create an instant and positive lasting impression and the need to deliver content that connects with an audience. And, of course, we all worry about the negative potential of a bad performance.

As the Nightly Show proves (in the form of some of the underwhelming guests that have been rolled onto set), no matter how uninspiring the content, it is the presenter’s job to carry the show. A good chat show host can make the audience forget that the content isn’t great (witness Graham Norton breathing life into many a charisma-free Hollywood A lister), and a good speaker can do the same even if their material consists of a report packed with all the dryness that niche industry sector facts and figures entail.

Of course, I am not urging you to think more like a chat show host to become a better presenter. In fact, thinking like a chat show host, a stage performer, or a comedian is absolutely not advised. In the majority of events I host, I am quizzed as to whether it is appropriate to include jokes I’m quite clear about this; If you don’t do jokes, don’t do jokes…

Just because you are required to stand on stage and deliver to an audience you will not suddenly become a stand up. That said, on the evidence of the past six weeks of Nightly Show performances, you may get through the first round of recruitment should the powers that be ever try to repeat this horrible TV experiment again…

Luan de Burgh

April 2017

Luan de Burgh is a speaker, writer and founder of The de Burgh Group – a specialist business communication training provider dedicated to helping people perform at their highest potential.