It’s about time late night television had a female talk show host. Not that Colbert, Oliver, Corden, and others aren’t great, but it’s a problem when “revitalizing the format” means adding four new men to the already all-boys late night club. Samantha Bee and her laser shooting centaur eyes are out to change all of that.
Her show, Full Frontal, premiered on TBS February 8th and has been wracking up positive reviews. Entertainment Weekly called it “daring” and “innovative” and Hollywood Reporter said “nothing felt bloated,” by which they meant nearly everything about Bee’s innovative satire was and continues to be spot on. The show doesn’t rely on celebrity interviews or gimmicky lip sync battles; it’s thirty minutes of political mockery with Bee standing assertively at camera left.
I was worried when I first heard about the show that the producers would limit the content to “women’s issues” in order to hone in on a specific demographic of viewers. Luckily, Bee has been covering a broad range of topics, some of which garner a feminist response and some of which don’t. Bee may be female, but she certainly isn’t catering to just women.
Full Frontal airs once a week at 10:30 on Monday nights, which admittedly, isn’t the best time slot, but the weekly format (as opposed to daily) does allow Bee to spend more time on in depth stories. Bee’s first episode relied on some of the common election season jokes. She called Bernie a blustery old grandpa, mocked Hillary’s unwavering determinedness, and compared Bush to a lukewarm glass of milk. But, the best jab came when she accurately diagnosed Cruz with “stage four cancer of the personality.”
The second show had a different set up. Bee travels to a Syrian refuge camp in Jordan to interview some of the people we (the uninformed, overly nationalistic Americans) are “incoherently yelling about.” I was worried that Bee would come across as condescending or overly lighthearted, but her interviews felt mostly genuine. I was put off by the fact that most of the refugees remain unnamed, unlike the immigration agent she interviews whose name is clearly demarcated at the bottom of the screen. It would have also been nice to have seen more complex discussion with the refugees, but the lack of critical inquiry could have been due to the 30-minute time limitation. Like Oliver, Bee logically dismantles every racist right-wing comment presented in the show’s montage of excerpted Fox News clips. The editors even slip in a video of a young girl screaming on a roller coaster to emphasize the hyperbolic nature of the newscasters’ xenophobia.
The show isn’t perfect by any means. At times Bee’s TV personality feels forced and her sarcasm comes off a little heavy. Some of this should be expected for a talk show newbie, but I’m also hoping Bee will let a little more of her own personality come through in future episodes.
There’s also the fact that Bee is another white woman in an industry that severely under represents people of color. Bee’s reportedly got the most diverse writers room in late night with a 50% female and 30% nonwhite representation, but she’ll need to find space for more diversity onscreen as well.
It’s too soon to tell whether Full Frontal will earn the same prominence as other late night shows, but Bee’s made it clear that this isn’t her end goal. She’s already created something that has its own uniqueness and it will be fun to see where she takes it from here. For any hateful or misogynistic commenters who think otherwise, Bee has already set up a working hotline, 1-844-4-TROLLZ. To anyone else with spiteful comments, I would say get out or get stung.