TBS has thrown in the towel yet again in its battle to find a niche in the late night talk show wars. According to a report by Variety, the cable network has canceled Full Frontal With Samantha Bee after seven seasons. Despite 22 Emmy nominations over its run, and one win for Outstanding Writing for a Variety Special in 2017, Warner Bros. Discovery — the parent corporation for TBS — trimmed the show and is now looking for the next big thing in late night. The final episode of the series aired on June 23, and stands as a reminder that the network just cannot get a late night show to hold on for long.
The cancellation marks an abrupt end for the 52-year-old Toronto native, who rose to prominence on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show. She joined the show, then hosted by Jon Stewart, in 2003 and became the longest serving correspondent, leaving in 2015 after 12 seasons. She eventually signed on with TBS to create content, including the comedy series The Detour, which starred Jason Jones (All About Steve) and Natalie Zea (Justified) and ran for four seasons. Her signature show for the network, however, was Full Frontal, which aired its first episode in February 2016 and offered a new episode every week.
Donald Trump was elected President later that year, and the show’s political slant certainly benefited from the reality star’s term in office. Her constant lampooning of the President was similar to most of the other talk shows on late night, but Samantha Bee was the only woman in a sea of male hosts, setting her apart from the pack. In 2018, she herself became a news story when she called then-First Daughter Ivanka Trump a “feckless c**t” on-air while criticizing her father’s immigration policy. She later apologized.
TBS called the cancellation a business decision, and it is perhaps an indication that broadcast and streaming have produced far too many similar programs, diluting audiences and failing to justify the exorbitant salaries of the hosts involved. Late night talk show choices used to be defined by NBC’s Jay Leno and CBS’ David Letterman, but with their retirement and slew of new shows, there may have been far too many talk shows taking political angles for a shrinking audience. TBS, for its part, has had issues getting late night shows to work. In 2009, their first attempt at a late night talk show, George Lopez’s Lopez Tonight, only lasted two seasons before cancellation. Conan O’Brien had a good run on TBS with his show, but it always struggled with ratings and was canceled last June. Samantha Bee lasted seven seasons, and now may seek to revive the show elsewhere.
Stephen L. Miller at The Spectator raises another possibility that may have undermined Samantha Bee’s following and doomed her in the ratings. In 2017, news broke that Bee and her husband were part of a group trying to stop a New York City public school from expanding the school’s zoning boundaries. That would have allowed kids from poorer neighborhoods access to the school, which had previously only allowed children from the exclusive, richer neighborhoods that surrounded it. Although the motives of Bee and her husband were never made clear, and the claims against them may have been a stretch, Bee never attempted to clarify the situation or apologize. The controversy hurt her standing, as many called her a hypocrite, and it may have damaged her overall reputation.
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