Any Daily Show fan who, like me, claps and yells “Back in Black!” anytime you hear Jon Stewart’s “When a news story falls through the cracks” intro may tune in to Comedy Central at 10:30 p.m. tonight and wonder if Lewis Black has found his dream job. The premise of his new weekly series Lewis Black’s Root of All Evil is simple: Two people, or entities, or ideas in our culture are debated by “litigators” (comedian guest stars) in front of a “judge” (Black) who determines which is more evil. Typically, Black doesn’t pull punches: His first episode irreverently asks whether the Catholic Church has done more harm than Oprah — and as a onetime Catholic and longtime closet Oprah viewer, I’ve been wondering all week what his verdict will be! (Lewis, you had me at “It’s a battle between devout worshippers… and the Catholic Church.” Zing!) One of the show’s co-creators, Scott Carter, is an executive producer on Bill Maher’s Real Time on HBO and from the Evil clips I’ve seen, the proceedings will be a few decibels louder than Maher-moderated panels, but similarly topical. (More than half a dozen episodes have already been shot, so my hope is the show will grow to be even more topical.)
While I watch over the next few weeks, I’ll be wondering which of Black’s guest stars have debate team skills somewhere in their background. Comedians scheduled to appear include Patton Oswalt, Andrew Daly, Andy Kindler, and Greg Giraldo; I’m particularly excited that the underrated Kathleen Madigan will guest (of her Root of All Evil experience, she recently told the New York Times, “You have to write your case by yourself. You have to be coherent, logical, and funny. It’s not like going on Letterman and Leno and doing a six-minute set, which is a no-brainer.”) I’d be a mushy mess trying to articulate a position and get laughs in front of Black, the easily outraged master of hand-flailing apoplexy, but hey, these are pros who likely thrive on pressure.
I should note: if you’ve been enjoying, or contributing to, the lively and often hilarious “Throwdown” debates happening over on EW’s own TVFan site, then you’re probably just the viewer Black & Co. will be counting on to tune in regularly for a Wednesday dose of Evil. Check out the show’s clip-mash promo below, and let us know what you think, PopWatchers. And before we recess, if you have any “What’s more evil?” pairings to suggest for Black (I’ll start: fake memoirists or fake breasts), let’s hear ’em!