Home Politics Review: Full Frontal with Samantha Bee showcases Daily Show’s political honesty but needs better format

Review: Full Frontal with Samantha Bee showcases Daily Show’s political honesty but needs better format

8 min read

The only time I turn on the TV regularly anymore is to watch political satire. I was introduced to it around the 2012 presidential election with “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” and I fell in love with the ability for a comedian to act as both a pundit and an investigative journalist. I’m aware I wasn’t around for the “peak times” of Stewart and Stephen Colbert, but I did get to see the phenomenon of political satire being the go-to news source for my generation. I also got to witness the start of many careers like “Daily Show” correspondent Samantha Bee, who premiered her own show on TBS on Monday, “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee.”

As I’m sure you already know, media companies were scrambling for a fresh wave of political comedians after Stewart retired and Colbert left “The Colbert Report” to replace David Letterman on “The Late Show.” Naturally, they went for Stewart’s proteges, as Comedy Central booked Trevor Noah and Larry Wilmore to host “The Daily Show” and “The Nightly Show” respectively while HBO booked John Oliver to host “Last Week Tonight.”

TBS then decided to join in the transformation as they booked Bee to host “Full Frontal.” Although only one episode has aired so far, Bee seems to have kept the honest, outspoken personality that made her so popular as a “Daily Show” correspondent, but the show itself has limited her extremely.

First, the obvious: Samantha Bee is a woman. She is also the only woman currently hosting a late-night television show, the first one since Chelsea Handler and Wanda Sykes. The media has focused almost entirely on that aspect of “Full Frontal,” which Bee was able to parody in an absurd skit that led her way into late-night television. She is clearly taking the high road on this, and it will probably bring a much-needed female voice to television once the show becomes established.

Bee comes at a fantastic time in the political world. She has come in during one of the most unconventional presidential campaigns of our time and political actors are becoming more and more flamboyant in their ideals. There’s so much content that it seems her writing staff, which is notably the most diverse in late-night television, feels the need to cover all of it. Using this much content would work if “Full Frontal” was a daily show or was a weekly show with an hour-long time slot, but it’s not. And therein lies the problem with “Full Frontal.”

“Full Frontal” is scheduled as a weekly, 22 minute show on TBS. The show has less time than its weekly partner “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,” which has the privilege of having eight more minutes due to a lack of commercials. Even then, the “Last Week Tonight” staff has the opportunity to focus on two or three subjects per episode, while “Full Frontal” has to be more topical. As a result, the show aired eight segments in its first show, and minus a six-and-a-half minute fake avant garde film on Jeb Bush’s presidential campaign, the average segment length was around 108 seconds long. One segment was even 41 seconds long, including a two-second intro, and featured only three jokes. 

Bee got the chance to host her own show not because she is a woman, but because she is able to be a valued sidekick as a “Daily Show” correspondent to Stewart’s process of calling out political absurdity. She’s also the only one of Stewart’s proteges that kept “The Daily Show’s” aggressive, populist tone. Colbert abandoned his character to become the entertainment guru he is on “The Late Show,” Noah plays the role of the giddy foreigner on his iteration of “The Daily Show,” Oliver portrays himself as a quippy Brit on “Last Week Tonight” and Wilmore comes off as “the educated man that has to get the last word in” on “The Nightly Show.” Simply put, Samantha Bee is the closest thing to Jon Stewart anyone will see for a long time.

 “Full Frontal” has the ability to be fantastic and trend-setting, judging on how Bee and her staff’s ability to call out the worst of politics whenever it arises. It’s clearly shown in her brutal takedown of a male Kansas state senator who is trying to institute dress codes for his female counterparts in the legislature. The only failings of this show appear to be on TBS’ front. The show needs to happen five times a week, be an hour long each week or change the way it presents its content entirely in order for Samantha Bee’s comedic brilliance to work.

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