Late night television is often a go-to source for finding humor in the political process, and the viewing options just got a little more interesting with the debut of Samantha Bee’s “Full Frontal” on TBS.
With the weekly show, which airs on Monday nights, Bee becomes the only woman currently hosting a late night show. The Frame's John Horn spoke with Mary McNamara, a Pulitzer Prize-winning TV critic at the L.A. Times, about how Samantha Bee is offering something new to the late night world.
Samantha Bee had the longest run of any correspondent on "The Daily Show." Does it feel a little like you could take the correspondent out of "The Daily Show," but you can't take "The Daily Show" out of the correspondent?
[Laughs] Well it was definitely a "Daily Show" flavor to "Full Frontal," but that's fine with me because it's a good format, it works. Certainly having lost both Jon Stewart and ['The Colbert Report'] right before this historic presidential election, it's been a huge problem. So it's really nice to have her accepting that format and running with it.
It almost feels a little more like "The Daily Show" than "The Daily Show" with Trevor Noah is right now.
Absolutely, and it's even more up-tempo than "The Daily Show." I mean, we've only seen one [episode] and it went by so quickly that I literally was looking at my watch thinking, Was that a half-hour? Which is, of course, a wonderful sign because you certainly don't want people snoozing off in the middle. But on the other hand, you're going, This is once a week? Now I have to wait another week? It was quite disturbing. I want it on tonight.
Let's talk about the context in which Samantha Bee is operating. Much has been made by how male late night talk shows are, and Samantha Bee did not duck that issue. Bee opens her show with a fake news conference, and even though it's a joke, it's touching on some very real things.
It's shocking that there are no female hosts on late night. It was shocking when there were no females in the running to replace David Letterman or any of them. There was no serious contention, I mean they had to go to England to get another male. Not that I don't love James Corden, but there are people here that could do it if you broke out of the male-mold.
It's pretty easy if you're a late night host right now to find material, especially in politics, but how can Samantha Bee cover that topic in a different way than her male competitors?
She can point out the female perspective on a lot of these issues. It was funny, she went on Colbert and she pointed out how many times he refers to male genitalia, but the point that she was making was that these are standard jokes for late night. They're very masculine, even down to the language that you use. She can point that out and then she can turn that around and open up a whole different way of making fun of things.
One of the things that you and other people have seized on is that TBS is only running 30-minutes once a week. Even though "Full Frontal" is off to a good start, are they pushing their luck? And how do they remain topical in a 24-7 news cycle?
That was the big question, and that was the question John Oliver faced on HBO, but she's just going to have to bring her own kind of voice to it. And the presidential election will carry her through until November because something's going to happen fairly that will keep the humor topical.
"Full Frontal with Samantha Bee" airs Monday nights on TBS.