Hit or Sh**: Pop’s NIGHTCAP

In this Crossfader series, our intricate and complex rating system will tell you definitively whether new television pilots are worth your valuable time. We call it: HIT OR SH**.

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Everybody loves show business. Particularly shows about show business. Take 30 ROCK, LOUIE, 30 ROCK, BOJACK HORSEMAN, and in case I didn’t mention it, 30 ROCK, for example. We have the titular character working hard despite a team of seemingly incompetent, yet capable and downright hilarious supporting fellows that fit behind them. Now, we’re introduced to NIGHTCAP.

Pop’s NIGHTCAP follows Staci, a talent booker on the fictitious late night show “Late Night with Jimmy” (yes, another Jimmy!).  Despite all the efforts Staci makes for the show to run smoothly, she still butts heads with the guests on the show. She’s got a disheveled edge to her that makes her look like that she’s going to pass out at any moment, and her awkward side bears resemblance to Liz Lemon from 30 ROCK — a bit too much so.

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Has Liz Lemon also had food thrown at her before? Probably

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That stretches to the other characters as well. Penny, the assistant, has the naivete, eagerness, and anxiety of Kenneth; Phil, the security guard, shares the same amount of plain weirdness as Frank; and the absent Jimmy, just by passing conversation, resembles Jack Donaghy. Although I tried to set aside the rest of my direct comparison while watching the show, the thoughts just kept flooding back. Of course, you can argue that everything in fiction has been done before, so I was excited to see what NIGHTCAP would bring to the table.

There is a heightened sense of reality in NIGHTCAP, primarily due to its cast of guest stars. With recognizable people, suddenly everything in the show has more truth to it; for example, we can really believe that Staci went to summer camp with Sarah Jessica Parker and they ended up kissing by a lake at night. When Sarah Jessica Parker actually kissed Staci at the end of the episode to provide some closure, it didn’t feel like a gag at all, I could feel the butterflies flying in Staci’s stomach. I could also feel the butterflies inside Penny’s stomach when she was nervously interviewed by Kelly Ripa and her husband to be their surrogate, to no avail. That’s a completely different kind of feeling though, if I could be more clear.

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Ah, the relief of closure

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But without those instances, there is nothing present here that can really keep one engaged for long. Without the guest stars, you can trick someone into believing that they’re watching a weird 30 ROCK spinoff, and with them you can only wonder how well interchanging guest celebrities will make the actual characters of the show progress in any way.

Maybe the show is less about show business than the nature of celebrity in Hollywood, which is a better fit. Yet, this isn’t pronounced, as it seems like the Alexandra Whitworth doesn’t know which direction she wants to go in. Not to mention the several characters we barely get a few words out of.

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Literally speechless

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NIGHTCAP reminds me of a tricycle missing a wheel. It’s not going to work like an actual tricycle, and it’s not going to move with all of its weight on one side. That being said, the show won’t do well surviving on the help of guest stars to move the plot along. It sounds like a fun idea in practice, but what it lacks is any support from the actual characters. Though Staci is much more of a pushover than Liz Lemon, she stands small in her shadow. The best parts of the episode weren’t her dealing with the other employees or managing the show, but rather trying to reminisce about an awkward encounter with Sarah Jessica Parker. RIght now, the guest stars are the only legs NIGHTCAP stands on, and going on like this will only make the audience feel cheated and searching for the original.

Verdict: Sh**

NIGHTCAP airs on Wednesdays on Pop

Michelle Vera

Michelle is a guest contributor for Crossfader Magazine. She self-published a book about fairies when she was eight. It sold two copies.

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