Sadly, I have been neglectful of good ol’ narrative TV as of late. I have a buffet of season 3 of The Americans waiting for me so I have bright future of great episodic TV. But I do find those who do the daily grind of putting together TV shows to be very interesting and how I gobble up my free hours. News, sports, talk shows all rush and struggle to put on a show only to have it be carried off by the wind and then they must roll the boulder up the hill the next day. I always felt it is unjust when the HBO talkshows would win Emmy Awards. As Dennis Miller, Chris Rock had to and John Oliver and Bill Maher have to, cobble together a half-hour every week for about half-a-year rather than their counterparts who have put together an hour every frickin’ night. Notwithstanding, the tremendous burden that the never-seen production staff have to put up with.
One of these weeklies that may grow up to be a daily is Full Frontal with Samatha Bee. And it’s one of the more disappointing efforts that I have seen this year. Samantha Bee was on The Daily Show and was a great mix of peppy, acerbic, and just weird. She had great pieces that weren’t event necessarily comedic, they were just really cool to watch. A strange and hyper-analytical look at “good” immigrants and “dirty” immigrants through the prism of the MSNBC’s Morning Joe. I watched Joe the day after and the people ridiculed on the show were part embarrassed and part impressed. They were not going to fight back as they were so accurately sliced and diced that there was no energy for a retort. Ditto a ridiculously on-point interpretative dance inspired by Fox News The Five. These were bits that went beyond the usual high quality yet predictable fare the John Stewart era Daily Show offered. These weren’t the usual zingers or any stuff that the crowd would hoot and holler for. It was original work that didn’t really belong on TV, with a slight pretentiousness that was diffused with a wink and a smile. Stewart left and everybody scurried away to do, in essence, the new Daily Show. I guess it must be tough if you want to do a show and everybody knows you from that old one. You try and pitch things and the powers that be hem and haw and respond with, “how about something like the Daily Show…but blank. Edgier…younger..more proactive…on fire etc, etc.”
So Samantha ends up at TBS to do Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, a show if not directly ripped-off from then definitely inspired by the Daily Show. I have seen this show twice, and its pretty much all I can handle so if these are the outliers in an otherwise stellar body of work, well then don’t I have an omelette on my mug. But from what I have seen, I just shrug my shoulders and move along. The commercials ballyhoo the critic’s blurbs as “Fearless!” Yes, indeed how dare she go after Allah & Oprah…wait…no, it’s just the basic, Trump, Cruz, Kanye, Hilary, et al. The content of the show is one thing but I have rag on the production. There is a brutal laugh track on this show. The audio mix is atrocious. It’s clearly in a studio but the laugh track is like from a capacity hockey arena. And everything is whooped up. Every bit destroys according to this audio sweetening. To me; it’s off-putting. I found some of the The Daily Show crowd off-putting too but this is an obvious machination.
Then there are the bits themselves, which is tough to actually gauge in a vacuum because of the trouble I have with the constant ovations. But she goes after the Trumpster and Ted Cruz because, by law, if you have a show you have to. And it’s…meh. There is no real wit about her Trump material that I saw. She goes after Trump with logic and intellectual enthusiasm. This is easy, not necessarily funny. Say what you will about Jimmy Fallon but he has done the great job of treating Trump as a goofball. He’s a boob. He is treated with the same heft as Darwin Award winners. There is no real anger when he does his material on Trump either through jokes or his impression. There is a sense of belittling whimsy about it. Its treats him as a schmuck – if you go at Trump intellectually you raise him up to a level you don’t want him to be on. She also did a bit where she’s secretly in love with Ted Cruz, which was ok. But according to the audience, this more hilarious than when the the axe hit the wooden dummy in the crotch on the Johnny Carson Tonight Show.
I’ll take an observation from Norm Macdonald and apply it here. He doesn’t like Bill Maher’s show and it stems from the same reason I can’t enjoy the Samantha Bee show. She rather shows you how smart she is than how funny she is. I really don’t care if you are smarter than smarmy politicians. The fact that you have to prove it to yourself tells me more about you than it does about them.
Raphael Saray is proud member of the Miracle Violence Connection – an ad hoc group of artists and vapists who tip very well.