I’ll be honest, Bodega Hive: I was pretty worried about Desus & Mero moving from Viceland to Showtime. During its two years on Viceland, the show — hosted by Bronx-born comedians (and Bodega Boys podcast hosts) Desus Nice and the Kid Mero — established itself as one of the funniest and most original entries in late night, thanks to the duo’s loose and effortless riffs on the news of the day. It seemed hard to believe that execs at Showtime, not exactly the edgiest of networks, could really understand and nurture Desus and Mero’s raw and intentionally unfiltered humor. (See: The time Desus wondered if Kim Kardashian’s vagina was “the actual Sunken Place.”) Not only did the network seem like an odd fit, Showtime also announced that Desus & Mero — which ran Monday through Thursday on Viceland — would only air once a week. Could the still relatively untested late-night duo handle such a massive format change and adjust their freestyle banter for a much larger audience in a much more corporate setting?
After watching the Feb. 21 series premiere of Desus & Mero on Showtime, I’m pleased to report that my apprehension has turned to cautious optimism. Though they’re on a larger stage — literally and figuratively — the Bodega Boys have more than enough personality to fill it. The initial outing revealed a few weaknesses in the new format, but it retained the humor, point of view, and boisterous energy that makes Desus and Mero an essential late-night addition.
Rather than trying to replicate the basement-rec-room vibe of Desus & Mero’s Viceland set, Showtime set their hosts up in a loft-like space overlooking an appropriately unglamorous New York City backdrop. When it comes time for interviews, the guys move over to an almost comically large wooden table; it practically dwarfed their first guest, Bronx-born Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Other new touches include pretaped bits, like the opening sketch involving Desus and Mero getting grilled by a group of skeptical school children (“If you’re famous, how come I don’t know who you are?”) and a visit to Ocasio-Cortez’s Washington, D.C., office. (In an effort to make the Bronx-born politician feel more at home, they brought her a Puerto Rican flag, some plantain chips, and a bottle of Fabuloso all-purpose cleaner.)
The rundown of the episode remained fairly intact: As they did on Viceland, Desus and Mero spend the first half of their show talking about news and pop culture headlines. The difference — and the new show’s primary problem — is that now the duo must hustle to cram in a week’s worth of observations into 15 minutes, a structure that’s decidedly at odds with the hosts’ relaxed, observational style. On Viceland, they could spend six minutes dissecting Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony in front of Congress — pausing to obsess over little details like how the Facebook exec sipped his water — but most of the news-based segments on Thursday’s Showtime premiere were under two minutes. Perhaps not coincidentally, the best bit was an extended look at the controversy and debate around Best Picture nominee Green Book; the five-minute segment featured brutal punchlines (“Green Book costar Viggo Mortensen had to apologize for using the N-word during a panel… when he said, ‘N—, get me a Coke’”) and a parody trailer for The Greenest Book (rated WG, for “White Guilt”), which skewered Hollywood’s reliance on the “white savior” trope.
Aside from that one quibble — give us fewer topics and longer riffs! — Desus & Mero made a remarkably smooth transition to its new home. Thanks to the Bodega Boys, Showtime’s brand just got a little stronger.
Desus & Mero airs Thursdays at 11 p.m. ET on Showtime.