Could John Mulaney Deliver Streaming Its First True ‘Late Night’ Hit? 

The graveyard of shows that have attempted to bring something resembling the late-night format to streaming is vast.

Even as subscription streaming services have become the de facto leader in producing original television content, late night remains one nut that the likes of Netflix, Apple TV+, and Peacock have failed  to crack.

It’s not for lack of talent. Jon Stewart, Chelsea Handler, Michelle Wolf, Hasan Minhaj, Amber Ruffin, and Joel McHale have all taken turns behind the proverbial desk for different streamers, but none have made enough of a dent to stick around for more than a season or two.

Why streamers keep trying is no wonder. Talk shows are inexpensive to produce, and if one were to be genuinely successful, it could help combat the dirtiest of words in streaming: churn.

It’s a model that’s worked well for satellite radio, where SiriusXM has shelled over hundreds of millions of dollars to Howard Stern and, more recently, Conan O’Brien to provide the service with original, habit-forming shows that make it harder for listeners to cancel their subscriptions.

Whether there’s a daily show that would somehow be enough of a draw to stop Stranger Things viewers from unsubscribing to the service after they’ve finished their show’s latest season, of course, is a bit of a leap. But Netflix might have its strongest contender yet in Everybody’s in L.A., a special six-episode miniseries that’s set to air live on the streaming service starting this Friday May 3rd, and then Monday through Friday of next week.

Hosted by John Mulaney, the show is slated to feature a slew of comedy stars, all in town for the Netflix Is a Joke Festival. Perhaps you’ve heard of some of them: Jerry Seinfeld. Jon Stewart. David Letterman. And those are just the legends. Others scheduled to appear on the show include Bill Hader, Sarah Silverman, Cedric the Entertainer, Hannah Gadsby, Nate Bargatze… the list goes on. 

Then there are the musical acts, which include Beck, St Vincent, Weezer, and Los Lobos. Add to that a series of field pieces that Netflix says will see Mulaney “exploring the city of Los Angeles during a week when every funny person is in it,” and you’ve got a week-long lineup any late-night show would kill for.

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Obviously it’s just a one-off, and one that benefits mightily from the fact that Netflix happens to be the reason most of these folks will find themselves all in the same city next week. (The streamer’s historically deep pockets, at least when it comes to the Seinfelds and Lettermans of the world, likely also played a role in their willingness to participate.)

But beyond its enviable guest list, Everybody’s in L.A. has a number of other things going for it that past streaming efforts in this space haven’t. The first is its host.  

While Chelsea Handler, Hasan Minhaj, and Michelle Wolf are talented comics and broadcasters, none are as big a comedy star in the Netflix ecosystem as John Mulaney. He’s produced three standup specials for the streamer, the last of which, Baby J, was Netflix’s second-most viewed comedy special in the first half of 2023. (Chris Rock’s Selective Outrage was #1.)

There’s also the strip format. Unlike their traditional late night counterparts, most attempts at streaming talk shows have either dropped one episode a week or a series of episodes all at once. There’s nothing habit-forming about that. (Yes, Jon Stewart Mondays on The Daily Show are proving that model can work, but it’s only because Stewart built a relationship with the majority of his present day viewers over his many years in the nightly coal mines.)

Finally, there’s the power of live. Things could go very wrong–and they have when Netflix has chosen to go live before. But assuming that the show avoids the rookie tech issues of earlier efforts, releasing Everybody’s in L.A. as it happens promises to give the show an energy and an immediacy that most streaming talk shows have sorely lacked. 

While the traditional late night shows are pre-taped hours before they air, unlike most streaming talk shows, they traffic in their timeliness and are made to be seen at 11:35pm or 12:37am (or, in the case of The Daily Show, 11pm).

Similarly, by streaming Everybody’s in L.A. live, Netflix is telegraphing to viewers that this show is made for right now. What better way to compete against the virtually unlimited buffet of other viewing options? 

Although Everybody’s in L.A. is clearly intended to be a one-off, if it’s successful you can bet it’ll lead to more experimentation and possibly even a new round of late-night styled shows.  And who knows? Maybe new dad John Mulaney is in the market for a regular gig that’ll keep him close to home.

John Mulaney Presents: Everybody’s Live in L.A. premieres Friday May 3rd at 9:30pm ET, with additional episodes streaming nightly Monday May 6 through Friday May 10.

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