TV Review: ‘Nightcap’ on Pop Starring Ali Wentworth

Nightcap Review
Courtesy of Pop

“Nightcap” is a sturdy little comedy that owes a little, if not a lot, to NBC’s “30 Rock.”Nightcap’s” Liz Lemon is harried talent booker Staci, played by star and executive producer Ali Wentworth. The show Staci produces — also called “Nightcap” — is a talk show hosted by “racist homophobe” Jimmy, a generically named and never-seen figure that consumes all of Staci’s time and sanity.

Although there is a bit of familiarity to “Nightcap’s” premise, it’s at least a fun one to work with. And there are significant differences: While Staci, like Liz, is surrounded by a motley crew of helpers, Staci’s oddballs are a bit more worryingly damaged than those of “30 Rock.” (One, played by Don Fanelli, might in fact be a dog.) Further, while “30 Rock” made the most of its conservative corporate higher-up boss-man, “Nightcap” removes Jimmy entirely from view, turning him into the Maris of this sitcom — making all the rest of the characters together into one hapless Niles.

And instead of punch line humor, “Nightcap” runs a bit darker and meaner. (Even Jimmy’s name is an elbow to the ribs of the late-night industry, which seems dominated by men with that name.) The show is aided in delivering sketch comedy beats by a surprisingly deep bench of stars willing to show up to play (and skewer) themselves. The first episode, “Babymaker,” features Sarah Jessica Parker — who pretends to not recognize Wentworth, who she knew from Poughkeepsie summer drama camp, until things take a surprising turn in the third act. Real-life couple Kelly Ripa and Mark Consuelos, star as well, interviewing incompetent employee Penny (Lauren Blumenfeld) to see if she will be their surrogate. (“We’re not here to judge,” Consuelos says soothingly, when Penny discusses her sex life. Ripa turns to him in irritation. “That’s exactly what we’re here to do. We’re here to judge.”) Upcoming guests include Gwyneth Paltrow, Denis Leary, Michael J. Fox, Whoopi Goldberg, Jason Biggs, and Wendy Williams.

The talent willing to show up on “Nightcap” is a testament to Wentworth’s long career in the industry, where she is known in both performance and political spheres. For a comedian who isn’t a household name, she carries the show with the confidence of a star; Wentworth’s remarkably at ease at the center of the show about celebrity, delivering a combination of world-weary resignation and overzealous star-f–cking that are two sides of the same self-loathing coin.

“Nightcap” is surprisingly quick and sharp, with a strong sense of comedic timing and the layered humor of a sitcom episode. It’s a little fuzzy in places — there’s a slightly casual quality to the editing that would better serve a mockumentary-style comedy, and it’s hard not to miss Wentworth when she’s not on-screen. But with recognizable guest stars, commitment to madcap gags, and short-running episodes — just 20 minutes, with the credits — “Nightcap” is lightweight, rewarding, and extremely watchable comedy.

TV Review: 'Nightcap' on Pop Starring Ali Wentworth

Comedy, 1o episodes (2 reviewed): Pop, Wed. Nov. 16, 8 p.m. 20 min.

Crew

Executive producers, Ali Wentworth, Tom Brunelle, Brad Wollack, Troy Miller, Lydia Tenaglia, Chris Collins, Craig Shepherd

Cast

Ali Wentworth, Lauren Blumenfeld, Don Fanelli, Jacob Wallach, Cherie Corinne Rice

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  1. jdubbiyou says:

    Agree, this show owes more to Larry Sanders . I’m not normally a big fan of Camp comedy unless like Nightcap, where the creators know we know they’re smarter than they try to make us think they and we are.Tongue firmly in cheek with ensemble characters playing it over the top and deliciously self effacing guest stars.

  2. Rita says:

    Love this gem of a show! Great ensemble cast. I tape and binge!!! Love it

  3. Steve. says:

    It really owes more to the Larry Sanders Show, from which it takes at least one storyline almost verbatim – the one about the talent booker having previously had a lesbian dalliance with one of the guests.

  4. JP says:

    What a terrible review, giving way too much credit to 30 Rock to start when it doesn’t deserve the room it’s given here at all, not mentioning Head Case at all, and slighting Ali’s previous work in general. It’s like you’re a TV reviewer, but haven’t watched much TV only knowing mainstream stuff and what’s in a press release. Those impressive guest stars line up for this? That alone sounds clueless, like it’s a shock that this show can get that. There was an impressive guest starring list on Head Case, the show that should have been mentioned repeatedly here but wasn’t.

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