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Stephen Colbert has a tough act to follow in replacing David Letterman on the “Late Show” later this year — but then again, following Stephen Colbert is no easy feat either.

The latter job fell to Comedy Central’s newest host, Larry Wilmore, on Monday night as the first episode of “The Nightly Show With Larry Wilmore” aired in “The Colbert Report’s” vacated time slot. So, how’d he do?

Luckily for Wilmore, judging by the early returns, John Oliver has got some competition in the “Daily Show”-alum-makes-good department. Having decamped from Jon Stewart’s lineup of backup jesters, the comic formerly known as “‘The Daily Show’s’ senior black correspondent” made a strong debut, according to several major gaugers of televised performances.

Take, for example, The New York Times’ Alessandra Stanley:

One thing is pretty certain about Larry Wilmore’s new show on Comedy Central. Viewers will want to hear what he has to say on Tuesday night.

Because on the debut of “The Nightly Show With Larry Wilmore” on Monday, his comments about “Selma”; Ferguson, Mo.; race relations; and also life in general were funny, unexpected and provocative.

Although Stanley allowed that Wilmore’s first outing “wasn’t perfect” and that he “isn’t young,” by her estimation, the fact that “he has dimples and a disarming way of laughing at his own jokes and those of others” goes a long way.

Time’s James Poniewozik was also mostly positive in his writeup, setting the tone for his piece with the headline, “Larry Wilmore’s First ‘Nightly Show’: The Underdog As Top Dog”:

When Larry Wilmore’s new Comedy Central show had to change its title from The Minority Report to The Nightly Show, the comedian told me it was a good thing. He wanted his news-comedy show to focus on the underdog, and he didn’t want people making assumptions just because he’d been The Daily Show‘s “senior black correspondent”: “At least they won’t have that expectation,” he said. “Why’s he not talking about black today? What’s going on?”

Nobody gave the news cycle that memo. Even though Wilmore joked that he’d started a year late–“All the good bad-race-stuff happened already!”–he came on the air with plenty of material, from the Oscars’ snubbing of Selma to the Eric Garner non-indictment, that showed how, yeah, it’s actually useful to have a late night host of color around to comment on it.

Next comes Variety scribe Brian Lowry’s review — let’s have a look:

An accomplished writer and often hilarious as “The Daily Show’s” “black correspondent,” Wilmore slid right into the opening segment with a series of clever jokes, many directed at the lack of diversity in this year’s Oscar nominations, which were, he said, “so white, a grand jury has decided not to indict them.”

Behind the desk, Wilmore literally yawned at the Academy Awards slight to “Selma,” in “What else is new?” fashion, then segued to Al Sharpton once again inserting himself into a controversy, quipping in regard to the activist/MSNBC host’s shrinking physique, “You’re literally stretching yourself thin.”

Poniewozik and Lowry both thought that the guest panel segment in particular needed work, and no doubt Comedy Central suits took note. Meanwhile, People’s Amanda Michelle Steiner thought Wilmore’s time had come with respect to considerations of talent and representation:

The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore premiered Monday, and despite taking over from Stephen Colbert’s Colbert Report timeslot, Wilmore simply plays himself – or a more exhausted-by-it-all version thereof.

It’s hard to blame him, really.

Originally titled The Minority Report, the satirical news show is more similar to Jon Stewart’s Daily Show, but with a focus on issues important to people of color – a debut that’s especially prescient in light of Ferguson and the Eric Garner case.

Now may be the perfect time for a show like Wilmore’s, where people of color are given a mainstream venue to air their grievances.

Dean Obeidallah picked up that last thread in an article posted Monday on The Daily Beast:

The realness of the show is not just represented by its content, but also by the voices it will feature. Our nation’s demographics are changing quickly, yet still, with few exceptions, that is not represented by the faces we see on television. (In fact, Wilmore is currently the only black host on late-night TV.) The rationale behind creating “The Nightly Show” was to remedy this very issue.

As Wilmore explained, one day while working at “The Daily Show,” Jon Stewart called him in to his office and shared his idea of creating a new show that would feature the voices that are not heard regularly in mainstream media. Larry responded, “Yeah, great idea.” Stewart then added; “And I want you to host it.” Wilmore said he was stunned for a moment, but then responded, “Yeah, great idea.”

Will the show find an audience? After all, it’s filling the time slot of very popular “The Colbert Report” and invariably comparisons by both viewers and the media will be made.

While nobody knows yet whether audiences will take to “The Nightly Show,” it looks like, at least for now, Wilmore has captured the fickle industry’s attention. Good show.

Have a look at a clip from Wilmore’s debut below:

–Posted by Kasia Anderson

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