Everybody’s favorite 3 1/2-year-old red monster Elmo stars in his very own new talk show on HBO Max, The Not Too Late Show With Elmo. Elmo stars in the 15-minute shows just as he is helping his parents clean up from dinner and just before he has to start his bedtime routine of brushing his teeth and putting on his jammies. Cookie Monster serves as co-host behind the podium while Mama Bear leads the band, Bert and Ernie man the control room, and plenty of Elmo’s other friends take part in the pre-bedtime production.
The concept of The Not Too Late Show With Elmo is honestly genius. It is perfect for parents or educators of young, Sesame Street aged children who need a bit of adult-oriented entertainment mixed in too. The show takes on a typical late-night format. Elmo starts with an opening monologue, he brings on a guest to interview and play a game with, and a musical guest closes out the night with a remixed rendition of classic Sesame Street songs. While some of the intricacies of the format may go over children’s’ heads, like the control room gags and the constantly shouting out the house band, the physical humor and the simple one-liners are exactly the kinds of humor that kids latch onto and repeat incessantly for weeks.
Most kids won’t have a clue who any of the guests are, such as John Mulaney or Lil Nas X, but, just like in Seseme Street proper their parents certainly will and they all act perfectly for the age of the kids most likely to be watching. Some of the music is more awkward than the musical numbers in Bill Nye Saves the World, and only one of the three episodes clearly ties the songs to any of the lessons of the episode, but they are all performed in super kid-friendly, diverse, and creative ways.
The Not Too Late Show‘s main struggle is with finding its purpose for existing when you can just as easily watch anything else in the Sesame Street catalog on HBO Max. Sure, it could just be for pure entertainment, but some of the episodes have very clear lessons they are trying to impart. At several points, it seems like the show is designed to be the perfect special occasion alternative to reading a book before bed, rife with bedtime rituals and routines. But, it doesn’t wholly follow through on that either. For example, one whole episode focuses on brushing your teeth. Yet, in another, Kasey Musgraves sings Rubber Ducky and the show doesn’t even tie it to the joys and hygenic necessities of bath time. It feels like both a missed opportunity and compounds the conflicting messaging about the show’s raison d’etre.
On the topic of mixed messages, there were a few times where it felt like the show was potentially sending mixed signals about lessons it was trying to impart. For example, Elmo is a very well-mannered monster. He always says please and thank you and makes sure to let you know he loves you. After going out of his way to be polite for a spell, Ernie leads a tour group right into the middle of Elmo’s interview with the Jonas Brothers. Their interruption is funny, but the comedy felt like it was contradicting Elmo’s politeness as he is rudely interrupted and Ernie doesn’t apologize or recognize what he did wasn’t nice. Similarly, Elmo and Jimmy Fallon are at one point discussing how calling something “interesting” isn’t nice because you should be honest and say if it was good or bad, but then he calls something “not bad” moments later in what feels like a contradiction to his own advice.
The show is also a tad over-produced. There are so many camera shifts that it gets dizzying a few times. The constant flashing to the CGI-inserted audience of kids and monsters is cute at times as part of the talk show theme, but it happens a few times too many and takes away from the comedy actually going on.
Nonetheless, the idea of Elmo hosting a talk show with his friends just before bedtime is an utterly endearing concept that can’t help but be adorable no matter the kinds and flaws. Nothing can stop Elmo in his dapper not so late night suite from being as lovable as ever as he croons about his day, tells you that you’re special, and tucks himself into bed with his stuffed animal Baby David to end each episode.
The Not Too Late Show With Elmo is not perfect, but it is a totally endearing spin on everybody’s favorite 3 1/2-year-old red monster just right for a special before-bedtime treat with a parent.
The Not Too Late Show With Elmo episodes 1-3 are available now only on HBO Max. New episodes air once a week beginning Thursday, June 4th.
The Not Too Late Show With Elmo
The Not-Too-Late Show With Elmo is not perfect, but it is a totally endearing spin on everybody’s favorite 3 1/2-year-old red monster just right for a special before-bedtime treat with a parent.