SHOW "Desus & Mero"
WHEN | WHERE Thursdays at 11 p.m. on Showtime
WHAT IT'S ABOUT Bronx-born and -raised comedians Desus Nice and The Kid Mero, both 35, first met in summer school, then years later reconnected on Twitter, where they built big followings. Otherwise known as the Bodega Boys — or their real names, Daniel Baker and Joel Martinez, respectively — they then landed at Complex TV, later MTV2, and most recently Viceland, while their podcast, “Bodega Boys,” lives on (you can get it for free at soundcloud.com). They joined Showtime in mid-February, becoming this network's first — and only — late-night hosts of color.
MY SAY There have been so few hosts of color in the history of late-night TV that that they could hardly fill a decent “Jeopardy!” category. The list includes Trevor Noah, Larry Wilmore, Whoopi Goldberg, Keenen Ivory Wayans, Arsenio Hall, Deon Cole, Mo'Nique, Robin Thede, W. Kamau Bell, Chris Rock and Hannibal Buress.
Then, there was, and still is, this pair. Neither is a late-night talk host from central casting, nor any extreme variation of one. Imagine a couple of trick pilots bringing their planes in for a rough landing while spitting flames from the engines, then screeching to a head-spinning, mind-blowing full stop. Now imagine TV hosts who are a rough approximation of this — unpredictable, possibly unhinged, undeniably entertaining. You are getting closer to the wild, woolly world of Desus and Mero.
They are a full-on roar of attitude, snark and street swagger. They are also vulgar — raucously, incurably so — and funny, at times riotously so.
The new series is not that sharp a departure from the Viceland one, but there are key differences. For starters, Showtime gave them a studio audience and a budget. The Viceland show sometimes looked like the hosts had produced it in exchange for a case of nutcrackers — bottled bodega rum punch — and the Bodega Boys do admit to enjoying the occasional beverage. For studio décor, the Viceland series had a stuffed bear with Timberlands on all paws; Timberlands are the preferred footwear for Desus and Mero, too. At Showtime, the bear has been retired, not the Timberlands.
There are still pretaped bits. The first episode included a roguish reboot of "Green Book" that effectively explained why so many critics saw this movie as just another extended White Savior trope, with racist undertones. Needless to say, on the Desus and Mero remake, those became overtones.
As usual, they rip various pop culture targets, with pictures as props, abiding by their longtime motto: "You post it, we roast it." They re-imagined gangsta rapper Teka$hi69, for example, as a Target employee in witness protection. Presidential candidate Cory Booker recently allowed himself to be photographed wearing baggy pants and an oversized shirt, striding toward the camera with a large, tooth-filled grin. The D&M response was predictable, which is to say merciless.
Mike Francesa was — and remains — the favored punching bag. Francesa outtakes from his WFAN radio show are met with hoots, hollers, one-offs and catcalls. Francesa would be scandalized — if he knew what a "Desus" or "Mero" was.
There are also interviews. The first episode featured Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the second Don Cheadle. They were informal, light and not particularly informative; the better of the two was Cheadle, who looked like was having a good time. AOC just seemed star-struck.
Where does this all go from here? Probably exactly where it's already been. "Desus & Mero" arrived at Showtime fully baked — a talk show that knows what it is, and what it does, and how to do it. That's good, and at least so far, the Bodega boys are, too.
BOTTOM LINE Raucous newcomer that can be highly entertaining, at other moments off-putting — caveat emptor — but the future does look promising.