I’ll admit that when I first heard that Samantha Bee would have her own Daily Show-type show on TBS, I was concerned. I thought that TBS might relegate her to the background of pop culture, just as people seem less interested in Conan O’Brien since he was so unceremoniously bounced from NBC and landed at TBS. I was concerned that not enough people cared about “women’s issues” to want to watch. Finally, and most egregiously, I was worried I wouldn’t like her show because I thought her role as a correspondent on The Daily Show could be a little hit-or-miss.
I’m happy to say I was wrong on all points, and it’s why she is my LAMP Luminary for the merry month of May. In early April, Bee’s show, Full Frontal, was extended through the remainder of the calendar year and averaged 2.1 million viewers; compare that to 2.122 million viewers for ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live and 2.573 million for CBS’s Late Show with Stephen Colbert in May. I was wrong and I love it.
Whereas The Daily Show talked back to American media and politics (assuming they’re different), Full Frontal focuses more on talking back to politics and systemic cultural forces, particularly where women are concerned. This area is Bee’s strength, and with her own show, she’s finally free to max out on it. Here’s one segment where she tackles the problem of being female while working:
The weekly format means that every episode is razor-sharp; while I would be happy to watch her four days a week, that frequency and demand can dilute even the most incisive cultural critics. But knowing she has more to say than can fit in one weekly episode is part of why I keep coming back. It’s not that she’s the only voice covering rape kit backlogs and other forms of systemic sexism in politics and the justice system (she isn’t), but for my money she is the funniest voice, not to mention the fastest – she delivers at a breakneck pace, which serves her material well. And there is so, so much satisfaction at these issues being handily dissected by a woman, as in her aforementioned rape kit backlog coverage:
When The Daily Show first started, it was just about the only game in town. Now, there are (at least) four TV shows devoted solely to satirizing politics and the news, including of course the latest iteration with Trevor Noah, as well as shows with Daily Show alums Larry Wilmore, John Oliver and Bee. It is perhaps a sign of the times that each show is necessary in its own way, thanks to the host. But Samantha Bee stands out from the pack, especially in an age where a woman speaking out about pretty much anything is catnip for trolls. She is consistently fearless yet fair, outrageous but not alienating, and of course she’s a very funny feminist the whole way through.
Closing out, here are two more of my favorite Full Frontal segments: