Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for TBS
Amid news that TBS has canceled its incisive satirical news series Full frontal with Samantha Bee After seven seasons, it’s worth pointing out one thing: I never thought Bee got the respect or the opportunities she should have on TV.
(Full disclosure: I was interviewed for a Full frontal segment a while back, poking fun at the idea that Trump and the Republicans might engineer some kind of fraudulent “October surprise” report to hamper Joe Biden and the Democrats in the 2020 election.)
From its debut in 2003 on The daily show — where she joined the program as its only female correspondent and became its longest-serving correspondent when she left in 2014 — Bee has come a long way in the game of current affairs satire.
At the time, I thought she seemed like a promising candidate to take over the show when then-host Jon Stewart left in 2015 (just like I love Trevor Noah, who did an amazing job as Stewart’s successor and current host, recasting it for another generation of news parody consumers). Bee herself said “it was awful” when Comedy Central made it clear she was never in the running to follow Stewart.
And while it was wonderful to see Bee have her own show in 2015 – becoming the highest-profile woman to host a series of late-night talk shows, while doing impactful projects like her Not the White House Correspondents’ Dinner — for the past few years, TBS hasn’t seemed to know what to do with Full frontalmoving its slots around enough that even fans would have a hard time keeping up.
So it wasn’t entirely shocking when Warner Bros. Discovery – a new company formed when Discovery merged with parent TBS WarnerMedia earlier this year – has decided to cancel Full frontal. The company had already halted development of new scripted projects for TNT and TBS, pulling the critically acclaimed comedy Chad a few hours before its debut in the second season.
The declaration of the string on Full frontal pretty much pins the decision on broad business priorities, not ratings or show performance. “As we continue to shape our new programming strategy, we have made some difficult business decisions,” read a statement given to me by a TBS spokesperson. “We… thank Sam and the rest of the Emmy-nominated team for their groundbreaking work.”
But the fact that Full frontalThe cancellation of is about a bigger issue, doesn’t take the sting out of seeing the most important late-night female voice unceremoniously removed from television, at least for now (fingers crossed Bee lands on flat news -form that values his show more than TBS ultimately did.)
And his show isn’t the only late-night show to have died in recent years.
Growing instability of late night TV
Jean-Baptiste Lacroix/Getty Images
Showtime’s lively late-night interview featuring the Bodega Boys, Desus and Mero, is disbanding — apparently, because the show’s two hosts decided to work separately. James Corden to quit his CBS job The late show Next year. And when NBC canceled its ultra-late show last year – A little late with Lilly Singhaired at 1:37 a.m. – it didn’t even replace the program with new original programming.
It seems like the space for original content in late night television is slowly shrinking. And it’s happening just as women and people of color have real opportunities to join the party.
In a way, it’s yet another story of online platforms eating away at legacy media. Young college-age viewers who once made it big with white hosts like David Letterman, Conan O’Brien and Jon Stewart are now glued to Tik Tok, Instagram and YouTube; today’s late-night hosts are cutting their shows to distribute through platforms that can attract almost as many online views as TV or cable viewers.
(Even the term “late night TV” seems a bit anachronistic, given that fans can now watch snippets of the shows online whenever they want.)
No wonder CBS has already signaled its intention to experiment a bit with the Late showafter Corden left. But this ambivalence about late night comes just as new talents like Amber Ruffin, Sam Jay, Ziwe, Michael Che and Charlamagne tha God are taking their own shots at reinventing the form in a more inclusive way.
Cynics may believe that the genre is already on its way out. But as a reviewer who watched Letterman reinvent the TV talk show by subverting it — the same way Jon Stewart revitalized the parody news show — I’m convinced there’s still life in it. old form. Especially since women and people of color feature more prominently in the genre.
Assessing the future of late night television
Some tantalizing questions remain. As women’s rights become a bigger issue for the midterm elections, will Bee land another current affairs show on a different platform, or will she use her talents as a producer and her production company to create something else? Will CBS try to fill Corden’s timeslot with talent that can balance popularity on the broadcast network and online, or will it focus on finding someone who can completely reinvent the form? ?
And can a talent like Amber Ruffin – whose show for NBC’s Peacock streaming service made her arguably the most successful late-night new voice – find greater exposure for her program somewhere? on cable or TV?
Fingers crossed Emmy Award-winning host Bee lands well. But it’s also important that the industry recognize and preserve opportunities for the next generation of late-night television talent who can expand the genre through reinvention and inclusivity.
If only they had the chance.