Stephen Colbert‘s live Election Night special for Showtime doesn’t have to play by the same rules that can hamstring news organizations, and as such it will cry foul if a presidential candidate tries to declare victory before all of the results are in.
This presidential election, if you have not heard, could prove historically dependent on mail-in ballots, which are at record levels due to the COVID-19 pandemic and limitations on in-person voting. As such, it could be days, or much longer, before the winner is officially declared. (The video embedded below illustrates how wildly the state-by-state leads can fluctuate once Election Day arrives, based on mail-in voting trends and the distinct tabulation schedules that different states adhere to.)
Though aware of that reality, President Donald Trump, to cite one example, has as recently as Sunday evening indicated that he and his lawyers will push for the declaration of a winner on Tuesday night.
Chris Licht, showrunner for The Late Show and EP for Showtime’s Stephen Colbert’s Election Night 2020: Democracy’s Last Stand: Building Back America Great Again Better 2020 (airing Tuesday at 11/10c), is game to fact-check any premature proclamation.
“Oh, I think that’d be wonderful, because as a not-news organization we can absolutely call bulls–t on it. And because it’s on Showtime, actually call ‘bulls–t’ on it,” Licht told THR’s TV’s Top 5 podcast. “Whereas the news organizations, which I did in my former life, have to be somewhat down the middle on it. ‘Yes, he is saying that, but we should point out… ‘ No, we can just be like, ‘Bulls–t.’ [We could] literally do whatever everyone would be screaming at the television.”
Trump does not declare when the election is over. The election is over when the ballots are counted. This year, that might take awhile. Here's how to watch election results. pic.twitter.com/mRrYL05GLF
— Pod Save America (@PodSaveAmerica) November 1, 2020
Acknowledging that over the course of the live Showtime special’s one-hour running time, “You’re going to know a lot; you may not know the final outcome,” Licht did share a dream scenario.
“I would like for us to come on the air at 11 and not know, and then at around 11:50 absolutely know,” he said. “We’ll be prepared for anything, but it’d be wonderful if the inverse of 2016 happened [and] we can see the raw emotion of Stephen but in the other direction.”