Samantha Bee‘s new show Full Frontal was talked about for months as the late night show we didn’t want but needed. The advertisements came, very OK teasers were released, and there was a slow burn of hope that the hype was right. And was it? Yes, the hype was warranted because Full Frontal is the future of late night.
The Monday night show—which was recently picked up for a year and returns tonight after a brief hiatus—is a revelation for all the reasons it shouldn’t be. First, there are no guests. It’s a half hour of Bee talking, a glitzy long monologue with a few video interludes and a closing field package. The format isn’t that far from The Daily Show. The difference is that the lulling guest interview has been excised and the packages feature the best correspondent, Samantha Bee. Moreover, in the age of social media, why would you need a guest? I’ve worked for a few talk shows and literally everything you hear a guest talk about they have said or done on social media before the show. There is nothing new—and nothing not pre-produced—in a televised guest interview. The guest bit on any talk show is an antiquated concept.
Second, the show is all to supplement Bee. This sounds obvious, without a guest and her name in the title, but all the footage and research and even the Peaches sung theme song is to support Bee. She—the lone female late night host—is doing her duty to fight the boys, by stomping in between being sweet and direct, that highbrow smart-aloof schtick that Bee has become known for. In the cock heavy night time entertainment world, Bee stands out as the lone entertainer tickling female, LGBTQ, Hillary loving, minority toes. The show isn’t just feminist: it’s female. It is such a singular vision because it is top-to-bottom Samantha Bee (with the help of Little Gloria Steinem, too).
Third, the show isn’t being bullied by the Internet. So much of the late night landscape is pandering to Internet, morning after viewers. Fallon does a great job with adorable, silly games while Corbin is going direct with somewhat cloying “LOOK AT ME, YOUTUBE!!!!” Internetting. Kimmel is balancing the IRL and Internet worlds nicely by activating his audience and expert trolling while Conan is, umm, collabing with Kevin Hart? Seth Myers, Trevor Noah, Larry Wilmore, Stephen Colbert, and Saturday Night Live are actively seeking clip outs, entire chunks lifted and spit onto YouTube, while John Oliver is pulling off that lift-and-spit in a glorious way most akin to Bee’s work. The difference with Full Frontal is Bee does not do anything to try to play to the Internet: she just is. Her show appears in its entirety online, for free, without some dumb cable login, which—Again.—lifts her out of the boys club and into a very different category. YouTube is killing the late night format and, instead of trying to have it both ways, Bee is doing the exact same thing on both instead of bending herself and her format into an entertainment item confused by the web.
Lastly, the show only airs once a week, on Monday nights, making it a beautiful, exciting morsel of appointment viewing. Literally: it’s the entertainment highlight of my week (double billed with RuPaul’s Drag Race, of course).
So is Full Frontal worth your time? Yes. It is the only late night talk show or talk show that really, truly works, a bonafide product of 2016, because it is a fusion of topicality (Women! Equal rights! Politics!) with a post-Internet polish (It’s free! No guests! A glorified extended monologue!). After working on and helping produce so many failed new talk shows, you learn what does and does not work—and everything Bee is doing works. Her team is clearly the best in the business and her show is poised to takeover all the non-network late night offerings.
This is just the beginning of Bee’s dominance. Believe the hype.