W. Kamau Bell gets comedic documentary series on CNN

Nearly 18 months after FXX canceled his show Totally Biased, comedian W. Kamau Bell will be back on TV and arguably with an even better gig.

Bell will host a documentary series on CNN titled The United Shades of America, in which he will “explore the far corners of our country” and its subcultures, according to a press release from the network. Bell’s late-night show was a combination of stand-up monologues, taped segments and interviews in front of a live audience.

On FX, Totally Biased ran once a week but became a daily program upon moving to FXX. Viewers and fans perhaps not being able to find FXX when it first debuted may have hurt the show. But producing a nightly show four times a week also seemed to strain Bell’s ability (along with his writing staff) to create consistently good material.

That won’t be a problem on CNN, as Bell and producers can take their time with material. If it follows the same blueprint as other CNN documentary programs like Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown and Morgan Spurlock’s Inside Man, the show won’t air until all of the episodes have been produced. Something with a more comedic tone like The United Shades of America would fit in nicely.

These shows have been successful for the network, providing an alternative to the prime-time commentary and punditry happening on Fox News and MSNBC. Such documentary-type programs have a longer shelf life and make for good late-night programming, rather than just recycling news. Additionally, CNN can easily break into those broadcast if breaking news occurs, rather than force the likes of Larry King or Piers Morgan to suddenly become anchors.

Bell’s new show, along with a program hosted by author and religious scholar Reza Aslan and a Steve Jobs documentary directed by Alex Gibney, will debut on CNN in 2016.


About Ian Casselberry

Ian is a writer, editor, and podcaster. You can find his work at Awful Announcing and The Comeback. He's written for Sports Illustrated, Yahoo Sports, MLive, Bleacher Report, and SB Nation.