By Vic Medina | Released
TBS has once again thrown in the towel in its fight for a niche in the late-night talk show wars. According to a report by Variety, the cable operator has canceled Full frontal with Samantha Bee after seven seasons. Despite earning 22 Emmy nominations over its run and a win for Outstanding Writing for a Variety Special in 2017, Warner Bros. Discovery — TBS’s parent company — has cut the show and is now looking for the next big thing late at night. The final episode of the series aired on June 23, and it’s a reminder that the network just can’t keep a late-night show going for long.
The cancellation marks an abrupt end for the 52-year-old Toronto native, who rose to fame on Comedy Central The daily News. 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 with TBS to create content, including the comedy series The detourwith Jason Jones (All About Steve) and Natalie Zea (Justified) and ran for four seasons. However, her signature show for the network was Frontalwhich 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 leanings certainly benefited from the reality star’s tenure. Her constant taunting of the president was similar to most other late-night talk shows, but Samantha Bee was the only woman in a sea of male hosts, which made her stand out from the crowd. In 2018, she became a news story herself when she called then-First Daughter Ivanka Trump a “feckless c**t” on the show while also criticizing her father’s immigration policies. She later apologized.
TBS called the cancellation a business decision, and it’s perhaps an indication that broadcasting and streaming have produced far too many similar programs, which is diluting audiences and failing to justify the exorbitant salaries of the hosts involved. Late-night talk show selection used to be dominated by NBC’s Jay Leno and CBS’s David Letterman, but with their retreat and a slew of new shows, there may have been far too many talk shows taking political perspectives for shrinking audiences. For its part, TBS has had trouble getting late-night shows to work. In 2009, her first attempt at a late-night talk show, George Lopez’s Lopez tonight, lasted just two seasons before cancellation. Conan O’Brien’s show has had a good run on TBS, but it has always struggled with ratings and was canceled last June. Samantha Bee has lasted seven seasons and may now be looking to revive the show elsewhere.
The Spectator’s Stephen L. Miller raises another possibility that may have undermined Samantha Bee’s following and doomed her ratings. In 2017, it was revealed 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. This would have given children from poorer neighborhoods access to school, which previously was only allowed to children from the more exclusive, wealthy neighborhoods surrounding them. Although Bee and her husband’s motives were never made clear, and the allegations against them may have been far-fetched, Bee never attempted to clarify the situation or apologize. The controversy damaged her reputation, with many calling her a hypocrite, and it may have damaged her overall reputation.