Television Review
Sting like a “Bee” — the piercing satire of "Full Frontal"
Tamara Turner
volume 37
issue 5
October 2016

Photo credit: Robert Deutsch / USA Today

There’s a ferocious new wit in town. Her name is Samantha Bee and her late-night cable show, Full Frontal, is passionate, outraged, straight-forward, and honest. Bee spares nobody and nothing in politics or public life: “There’s a lot of shame to go around.”

The Canada-born comic appeared for a decade as a correspondent on The Daily Show. When Jon Stewart’s helm of The Daily Show was ending, Bee approached the TBS cable network and won promise of free-rein for a new weekly 30-minute no-holds-barred program. Significantly, Full Frontal’s point of view would never be considered appropriate for mainstream television.

Said Bee, “We wanted a show that ... came from a really gut place, that tapped into our fury.” Her prime targets are racism and sexism — and any issues usually passed over lightly — if at all — by other media.

Full Frontal debuted in February 2016 for a 13-week run, but TBS has now guaranteed another 26 weeks through 2017. Each show garners more than 3 million viewers while the replacement Daily Show audience has shrunk by 40 percent. Segments from each show are available on the Internet’s YouTube site.

Diversity makes all the difference. For over a half-century, late-night network television has been a testosterone haven with men hosting and mostly white guys writing. But the composition of Full Frontal’s writers group is 50 percent female and 30 percent people of color, and the ever-broadening content of programs reflects that mix. One of the women writers persuaded Bee to visit Jordan for an affecting two-part examination of the Syrian refugee crisis. Clearly, it’s primarily women and children who suffer from the label of “potential terrorists” used by U.S. politicians to obstruct immigration.

The show already has been nominated for an Emmy Award for Best Comedy Writing.

In contrast to the feminist attitude displayed in some of comic Amy Schumer’s quips and sketches, Samantha Bee is firmly grounded in the fight against racism as well as sexism.

Bee’s characterizations of racism are spot-on: “February is Black History Month when we reflect on the progress African Americans have made despite our best efforts.” One of her African American writer/interviewers commented, “I hate Black History Month. White people have ruined it. I want to start Black Now Month; that’s when you stand up for Black people who are alive now, in real life, and not just in your imagination of the 1960s.”

Another show revealed that rape kits in Georgia had not been processed for decades. Both new and old kits were not tested because one male state legislator stood in the way. Following the Full Frontal exposure, a female Georgia legislator attached testing legislation to an unrelated bill that would not go through a committee where it could be blocked. The bill passed.

The refusal of Republicans to allow selection of a U.S. Supreme Court judge to replace deceased Judge Antonin Scalia brought this response, “Let’s just have a Supreme Court vacancy for a year because some clueless dildo wants a judge who’ll use his gavel to plug up your abortion hole.”

Of Scalia himself, Bee noted, “Scalia would have married the U.S. Constitution if he could, but then he’d have struck down the marriage because marriage is between a man and a woman.”

Plenty of balloons and hot air. The nominating conventions of Republicans and Democrats created a feeding frenzy for Full Frontal.

Disappointingly, Bee was obviously slanted toward the Democrats as the saner of two evils and merciless toward die-hard Bernie Sanders supporters for refusing “unity.” Despite these drawbacks, viewers got to watch segments of speeches and statements by convention participants that allowed many to hang themselves with their own words.

With arms waving and spittle flying, Republican speakers ranted about FEAR, TERRORISM, and Mexican boogey men. Bee called it a “four-day blooper reel ... a poorly attended rage-a-thon featuring a parade of hemorrhoidal has-beens.” The clip of Republican delegates refusing to say the words “Black Lives Matter” was cringe-worthy.

When Michelle Obama spoke about slavery at the Democratic convention, Bee noted that, “multiple news sites were forced to fact-check the idea that slavery happened.” Also, “the Democrats wanted everyone to know that they welcome refugees, particularly from the GOP.” Bee characterized Bernie Sanders’ capitulation to Clinton and the pledges of his former followers to vote Democratic as a “heavy petting session.”

Samantha tasked Hillary Clinton to make clear which fate was worse for the country, “An inexperienced, quadruply bankrupted, vulgarian, sociopath, race-baiter tied to a Russian oligarch — or a woman.”

Let’s hope that Samantha Bee keeps on stinging — she’s a strong woman and a role model for speaking up and telling it like it is.

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