Samantha Bee broke the talk-show glass ceiling at the Emmys — almost. She’s nominated for Best Variety Series Writing as a member of the team of scribes behind her topical talk show “Full Frontal.” which debuted on TBS in February to rave reviews. However, most pundits expected her to also make the cut for Best Variety Talk Series, but she’s conspicuously absent from that contest. We chatted with her in June, a month before nominations were announced, to discuss the show, the slow progress for women in late-night TV and much more (watch above).
Part of the challenge may be the slow turnover in late-night TV. Before the upheaval of the last seven years or so, most of the late night shows had the same male hosts for a decade or more. Then, starting around 2009 with Conan O’Brien‘s embattled seven-month stint on “The Tonight Show,” the ground began to shift rapidly. Since then, James Corden took over “The Late Late Show,” Jimmy Fallon took “Late Night” then “The Tonight Show,” Trevor Noah inherited “The Daily Show” from Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert assumed David Letterman‘s spot on “The Late Show,” and new shows appeared from John Oliver (“Last Week Tonight”), Larry Wilmore (“The Nightly Show”) and others.
“It’s like a loofah,” says Bee of all the turnover. “We’re sloughing it all off, starting fresh — got a nice new crop of fresh pink skin under there.”
“Full Frontal” airs on Monday nights, and like any politically focused talk show it has the challenge of keeping up with the news cycle, especially during a presidential campaign. Few would have predicted that Donald Trump would be within striking distance of the White House. “If nothing else, it’s a lively election season,” declares Bee, and that’s putting it mildly. The campaign has been great fodder for a new topical talk show, though she adds, “We don’t wish it on the country at all.”
TBS has ordered new episodes of “Full Frontal” that will take the show to the end of the year, which means five more months of election madness. How will it affect next Monday’s show? The news week isn’t over yet, so for better or worse, “anything could happen.”
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