Why you should be watching 'The Rundown With Robin Thede'

Ken Tucker
Critic-at-Large, Yahoo Entertainment
Robin Thede (Photo: BET)

The Rundown With Robin Thede returns Thursday night for a new season of headline-ripped laughs on BET. Since its premiere last October, Thede has quickly established herself as a distinctive and valuable voice in the late-night game. Her show features an opening monologue followed by some taped interviews — the format falls somewhere between The Daily Show and Full Frontal With Samantha Bee, but it’s really unlike anything. As the rare African-American woman fronting her own news-based show, she offers a voice, and a vision, you can’t get elsewhere.

Thede’s opening monologues are tightly constructed side-splitters, packed with social commentary laced with black cultural signifiers. She does clever parodies of Game of Thrones and The Handmaid’s Tale, the latter reinterpreted as a story about “microaggressions against black women.” One of her best early segments was a scathing deconstruction of Fox News’ lunatic obsession with the vilification of the Black Lives Matter movement.

At the same time, Thede is well aware of the position she occupies. She commenced one Republican party critique by saying sarcastically, “Look, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, Mike Pence — I know you watch BET, so listen up…”

Thede came to prominence as the first African-American woman to be the head writer of a late-night talk show: the late, lamented Nightly Show With Larry Wilmore. (Not a week goes by that I don’t think about how Wilmore and that show would be tackling current issues — its premature cancellation in August 2016 remains a disgrace for Comedy Central.) She occasionally appeared on camera on Wilmore’s show and has a background in sketch and improv comedy. As a result, Thede’s transition from behind-the-scenes writer to on-camera host has been a smooth one.

Thede is clearly itching to get back with new episodes, writing on Twitter yesterday: “Things I’m excited about this week: Oprah got the alt-right discombobulated simply by speaking, and Serena & Alexis on cover of Vogue because I love to see a baby slay.” If you watch The Rundown, you already know how much fast-moving, sharp-witted fun it can be. If you haven’t seen it, now’s the time to get on board.

The Rundown With Robin Thede airs Thursdays at 11 p.m. on BET.

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