TBS’ new late-night show, Full Frontal With Samantha Bee will “take stories we don’t think receive enough attention and stab them with the hot poker of comedy,” Bee told TV critics this morning – the first time she’s come to TCA to parse out details of her highly anticipated late-night show.
“We’re not that interested in puncturing hypocrisy: ‘You said that, but then you did this – J’accuse!,” added show EP Jo Miller, who brought her knitting on stage during the Q&A, which seemed to disconcert some of the guys and amuse some of the women. “Hypocrisy is not as interesting to us as injustice,” Miller added matter-of-factly, while knitting. Great optics.
“And, also comedy,” Bee chimed in.
Among other scraps of information imparted: Bee will not sit behind a desk and the set will have “a lot of space for her to move” in, as well as “media screens” and other bells and whistles “appropriate to 2016,” Miller said. The once-a-week program, set to debut February 8, unlike Comedy Central’s The Daily Show from whence Bee came, will not rely on news clips, and will more closely resemble a comedy take on a weekly newsmagazine than a riff on the nightly newscast.
And, in a major late-night TV departure, Full Frontal will dare to not include a weekly guest interview, giving Miller a “third act in which we can put anything we want,” she explained, knitting. “Our world of whimsy,” Bee added happily.
The Q&A began with a field piece shot for the show, about the unpreparedness of VA hospitals to deal with wounded female soldiers. In the segment, Bee interviewed one such soldier, who lost her leg while serving in the military. The only prosthetic legs available in her VA hospital were intended for men. “My Frankenstein foot,” joked the veteran, who reported the VA fixed the size issue by shaving off some toes, some of the heel, and trimmed down the sides, rendering it un-useable – but only for walking purposes.
“This is not a complaint” began one TV critic apologetically before noting the interview looked very much like something Bee would have done for The Daily Show. Bee comforted the critic, saying that’s natural because she loved doing those, and she’s good at it. “Our show is going to have pretty heavy field elements” but the ones that have been shot subsequently evolve the genre dramatically.
“That was our first piece shot before our office was up and functional, so it does look to us a lot like what we did before,” Miller explained.
A male TV critic asked for Bee’s permission to discuss her new show in the context of the paucity of female late-night show hosts. “Is it fair, or unfair?” the critic asked. “It makes complete sense to me that would be part of the conversation,” Bee reassured. “There are not a wealth of women in late night and women’s issues are extremely important to me.”
That seemed to give critics permission to ask Bee more questions on the subject, including what is her theory as to why there have been so few women hosting late night TV shows. “I do not have any theories,” Bee said.
“I don’t know why Joan Rivers did not replace Johnny Carson,” Miller jumped in.
In that vein, last May, TBS unveiled the first Bee show video tease, in which the longest serving member of The Daily Show’s Best F**king News Team attended an exhibit of the portraits of the white guys of late night, and was offered a variety of sausages on which to nibble.
Then, in September, Bee emasculated Vanity Fair over its October boys-club feature. Vanity Fair says it talked to “all” of the “titans” of U.S. late-night TV for its October issue — including Trevor Noah, who hadn’t even debuted yet. In its piece, Vanity Fair explained, patronizingly, “What’s conspicuously missing from late-night, still, is women. How gobsmackingly insane is it that no TV network has had the common sense — and that’s all we’re talking about in 2015, not courage, bravery, or even decency — to hand over the reins of an existing late-night comedy program to a female person?” VF notes “comedic redress is on its way, in the form of two new shows created from scratch, Samantha Bee’s for TBS and Chelsea Handler’s for Netflix. (Both shows are due in 2016.)”
It appears Vanity Fair used the women’s 2016 start date, and the “created from scratch” gag to explain away the absence in the image of Bee, The Daily Show’s longest-running correspondent who is joining Conan on TBS’ schedule, and Handler, who, apparently unbeknownst to VF, had an E! late-night show that ran from 2007-14. And, on the subject, neither Conan nor John Oliver was “handed over the reins of an existing late-night comedy program.”