Writer and comedian Kristen Becker reviews the newest entry into the Late Night game.
Forget everything you know about Late Night shows, Samantha Bee just changed the game.
If you are a comedian, the debut of Full Frontal with Samantha Bee was a wildly anticipated event. If you are a comedian who happens to have boobs, you knew the success of last night’s premiere would affect the next decade of television. I’m not trying to add to the gender divide with that statement, nor am I being dramatic for effect. It is just a fact. The late night talk show landscape has been a sea of shows made by men, for men. Specifically, white men. So much so that the wikipedia page for late night talk show gives us a rundown of the late night landscape through present day and makes no mention of Chelsea Lately. Chelsea Handler’s show ran for seven years and there is no mention of it. I understand that wikipedia is sourced from society, and that is what makes this omission all the more frightening. At the end of the day, there is no her-story of late night shows, so last night’s debut was important, but not just because of the host. Full Frontal boasts the most diverse writing room in the late night game. Bee brought Jo Miller and Miles Kahn, formerly producers of The Daily Show and together they set up a blinded hiring process, where gender and experience were unknown, allowing writing to stand alone and removing any chance of subliminal prejudices affecting the hiring process. The results speak for themselves. The writing room is half female and thirty percent non white. What was that about women not being funny?
From the moment the show began, there was little doubt we were in capable hands as Bee effortlessly skewered America’s current political climate. While Trevor Noah struggled (and some nights still struggles) to find his voice, Bee hit the ground running and confidently led her audience into territory that was abandoned with the sudden disappearance of both Stewart and Colbert. Yes, I know Stephen is still around, but then again he isn’t, ya know?
Full Frontal’s producers showed that their fearlessness didn’t end in the hiring process. Bee strays from the traditional late night desk format and instead stands, ala Wolf Blitzer’s The Situation Room, giving the show a sense of urgency that only adds to the brilliant writing. The debut episode also displayed the fine art of not giving a fuck. From Clinton to Sanders and Carson to Cruz, Bee displayed her ability to point out that this election is an equal opportunity employer as far as idiocy goes.
I don’t know if Bee chose to not try to fill Stewart’s shoes, or if she wasn’t offered the position. I don’t know if TBS executives have a tad more moxy than those at other networks, but I do know that as a viewer, this felt like Bee was given permission to truly let her vision come to life. I was left wanting the show to be twice as long. After watching the first episode it is clear Bee and TBS just declared they had the biggest balls in Late night. No wonder it is called Full Frontal. Kudos to the whole team and congrats to Samantha Bee for fearlessly following her vision.
Samantha Bee: The Woman America Needs Half An Hour A Week. All New Mondays 10:30/9:30c on TBS.