As a black person, I'm very sensitive about black history being overlooked. Arsenio Hall definitely made history in the mostly white male late night TV talk show host arena. With that in mind, I'm going to bring up a point or two that David Bianculli didn't in his sharp review of Maya's show.
If we get more hours of The Maya Rudolph Show, that will be history too. Ms. Rudolph was one of the very few black comic actresses to be a member of the Saturday Night Live cast.
Here are a couple of names David Bianculli didn't mention in his review, a review that included some variety show history. The first African-American to host a weekly network variety show was the superb and classy singer Nat "King" Cole. Cole was a top recording star of the '50s & '60s. He hosted a variety show on NBC that, sadly, lasted only one year because of racism. People complained about seeing a black man on TV. The network caved in. Another racial breakthrough on TV came in February 1968 when Harry Belafonte was host of the Tonight show for the vacationing Johnny Carson. Belafonte's A-list guests for the week included Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., making his first and only appearance on a network late night entertainment talk show. Has a black entertainer hosted a week on Tonight since then? One of the most popular and entertaining variety shows of the early 1970s was Flip, hosted by comedian Flip Wilson. This was a hit variety show on NBC hosted by an African-American. It was a hit and a hoot. I loved it. My parents loved it. They loved seeing established show biz heavyweights like Bing Crosby break up doing sketches with Flip. Jonathan Winters as Maude Fricket meeting Flip Wilson's alter ego, Geraldine Jones, was a classic. Geraldine teamed up with Ray Charles.
Come to think of it, Justin Timberlake would be a great guest on The Maya Rudolph Show. Timberlake and Melissa McCarthy from Bridesmaids in the same show. With better comedy sketches. And musical numbers. Give Sean Hayes the night off. That would work. I wish Maya Rudolph the absolute best. For a black entertainer on network TV, especially a black female entertainer, she made history Monday night. I'm so proud of her.