Samantha Bee might be the best thing on late-night TV these days (so thanks for that, Donald Trump)

TBS/Peter Yang
Samantha Bee

It’s not clear if it’s an actual consensus or a wishful meme being pushed by people who badly want a woman to achieve full membership in one of the last and tightest boys’ clubs. But Samantha Bee has been knocking hard on the glass ceiling of late-night cable satirists.

Bee’s 30-­minute weekly show, “Full Frontal” (Mondays on TBS), has been riding and putting spurs to the anti­-Trump zeitgeist since it premiered in February, The Donald being mother’s milk for any satirist worthy of the term. But it was the Republican National Convention in Cleveland where Bee pulled ahead of the pack. 

Her appeal may have a lot to do with her gender and the intensity of indignation she brings to volleys of ridicule against a career misogynist, but whatever the reason, it is very funny. ​Here’s her latest​, in the wake of Trump’s you’ve-­gotta-­be­-kidding-­me attack on the Gold Star Khan family. 

No doubt, veteran late-night hands are urging her to slow down her delivery a bit and let the jokes breathe, but right now the shtick is working, so why mess with it? Bee’s boss, Kevin Reilly, president of TBS and TNT, told reporters Sunday in Los Angeles that he is following her lead in terms of the amount of airtime she’s comfortable with. Said Reilly, “We try to take our lead from the talent itself. I’d give her as many hours as she’d like. It’s always a good problem to have to hear people saying they want to see more.”

Nightly talk shows are an incredible grind for performers and staff, and this election will be over in less than 100 days. But Bee, tapping the audience that propelled Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert into national figures, seems uniquely positioned to claim a spot for herself as the first woman satirist to join TV’s league of impertinent boys.

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Speaking of Reilly, he also made news by reiterating his vow to do something about the ad glut on his networks. He’s already cut back on the commercial load, adding 10 entire minutes for shows like “Animal Kingdom” and “Good Behavior” and intends, he says, to expand that to other programming.

“That’s a huge statement and has led the industry,” he said. “It’s being emulated by some other competitors on a one-­off basis. If we get the results that we’re beginning to see, we’ll look at doing it on TBS. (But) if we’re the only two networks doing it, it’s not going to change the industry and we’ll have to go back, but the data points in the right direction.” 

With most ad-­supported, scripted programming clocking in at barely 42 minutes out of an hour and 22 out of a half hour, a course correction on ad glut is long overdue. The American audience has lived with DVR time­-shifting long enough now that only the most hopelessly techno-­inept are incapable of blowing past the entirety of commercial breaks. (Crank that I am, I can’t remember the last time I watched any network or cable drama or comedy in real time.)

The trick is persuading advertisers to pay more to be the only, or among the very few, running in much­-condensed commercial breaks. But even then, the guess here is that networks (many burdened with debt from multiple leveraged buyouts) have so badly overplayed their hand, larding more and more commercials into more and longer ad breaks that viewers who have acclimated to the world of DVRs and ad-­skipping will never return to the days when their’s were captive eyeballs. But it’s worth a try.

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Finally, speaking of Jon Stewart, more details of his deal with HBO, announced not long after he signed off from “The Daily Show” emerged this week. The best part? Up first is an “animated parody of a cable news network” with assist from an animation house that can produce graphics quickly enough for Stewart and team to stay topical.

The Variety story by Daniel Holloway says “HBO programming president Casey Bloys discussed the multi­-platform project that Stewart is working on for the premium cable channel. ‘The idea is it will be an animated parody of a cable news network with an Onion-­like portal,’ Bloys said. The project will be structured to allow Stewart to release multiple pieces of short-­form content — video and text — through HBO’s digital platforms, but will also include a linear­-television element, likely in the form of a half­hour series. ‘He is establishing an animation studio,’ Bloys said of Stewart. He added that he is hoping that Stewart could begin releasing content as soon as September or October, though possibly not until later in the fall. Having an animation studio at his disposal will allow Stewart ‘to comment in real time with what’s happening during the day’s news events,’ Bloys said. ‘It will be simple animation … but it does allow him to respond fairly quickly to what’s going on in the day’s news.’”

Imagine Stewart’s fly-­on­-the-­wall view from inside Fox News not just every day of the Trump campaign but in the wake of Roger Ailes’ over­-the-­top creepy sexual harassment problems and you’ve got something close to satirical nirvana. Labor Day is too long to wait.

Comments (5)

  1. Submitted by Brad James on 08/03/2016 - 04:21 pm.

    Supposed liberal

    Samantha Bee’s husband has been fighting the rezoning of their Upper West Side (NYC) school district. The problem is that too many poor black kids will go to school with their children. Interesting that she feels comfortable calling bigotry from Donald Trump, but her own husband by any measure is one as well.

  2. Submitted by John Edwards on 08/04/2016 - 04:43 pm.

    Needed information

    Below is some information on what Brad James is referring to about ultra liberal Samantha Bee’s hypocrisy of routinely calling others bigots while she and her husband fight school integration in New York City (as does its ultra liberal mayor Bill deBalsio) because it actually affects them. It also addresses the concerns of readers Mr. Holbrook and Mr. Cagle.

    Slate has the story at :http://www.slate.com/blogs/schooled/2016//17the_upper_west_side_is_new_york_s_latest_school_integration_battleground.html

    The issue is that the school Bee’s and other rich people’s children attend on the Upper West Side is 75 percent white and Asian with 13 percent on free lunches while the school district’s average is 57 percent nonwhite and 48 percent free lunch. The district wants to move students in the heavily white-Asian school 16 blocks to another near a large housing project with a large minority population.

    In the Slate article Bee’s ultra liberal husband even issues a predictable “I am not a racist” comment when trying to defend his hypocrisy. Here is the passage: “One P.S. 452 parent speaking out against the move is comedian and former Daily Show correspondent Jason Jones, who’s married to Samantha Bee. “To portray any opposition as classist or racist is as bad as it can get,” Jones told WNYC. ”

    Bee’s performance is too vulgar to describe on MinnPost’s pristine site, but her act consists almost exclusively of ridicule of those whose political beliefs are contrary to hers. It would be news if the ultra liberal Mr. Lambert was not a fan.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 08/05/2016 - 09:56 am.

      Ultra Liberal

      Can an ultra liberal not point out the racism of others, even if said ultra liberal is married to an ultra liberal racist? Does that mean that the non-ultra liberal is not racist, or that it is ultra liberal and unseemly to point racism out at all?

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