In Late Night we see a notoriously, male-dominated world of late-night network TV in which a woman–Katherine Newbury (Emma Thompson)– is the host of her own talk show. (Think “The Devil Wears Prada” and Meryl Streep as the “bitch-boss from hell”). The world of late-night television is even more turned upside down when Katherine hires her first and only female staff writer, Molly Patel (Mindy Kaling) to tamp down criticism of the show’s lack of diversity– a “two-fer”: a woman and a person of color. It’s brazen “tokenism”.
The show’s ratings have steadily declined as social media and viral videos take over the discussion of current affairs and trends. As a multiple award-winning nighttime late-show legend, Katherine will have nothing to do with social media. The network’s president warns her that she will be replaced soon if nothing changes.
The network frets that Katherine’s too much of a relic representative of a vanishing demographic, and that her thirty-years of experience means little to the millennial generation. She’s a hard-nosed veteran performer. She ignores the accusations of being out-of-touch and a dinosaur. Katherine’s writing staff, all men–some of whom have never met her–slack off when they can, and write jokes that are partly the reason for her show’s growing unpopularity.
Enter Molly who has little experience in comedy (she worked in a chemical manufacturing plant) and initially struggles. Nevertheless she proves she is talented and knows what a younger audience wants to see. Katherine and Molly are from different generations and different perspectives of what comedy is and should be.
The antagonist and adamant opponent to all of Molly’s comedic efforts is Tom (Reid Scott), who is in charge of writing the opening monologues for the late show and feels far superior to Molly’s status as a “diversity hire”. Ironically he is a “legacy hire” himself. It’s such an old boy’s club that the women’s restroom isn’t truly the women’s restroom, but where guys go to take a dump.
A laugh-out-loud comedy with subversive social commentary woven into it, sometimes Late Night is so subtle the viewer might miss some of the scathingly tongue-in-cheek banter. Kaling gives this script her all as the creator and chief writer, critiquing how television works. She also – examines what makes a joke funny, the subtleties of comedy, and why something goes viral. This satirical comedy is timely and a must-see!