Samantha Bee Thinks Network Television Needs More Female Late Night Hosts

Let’s talk about women in late-night television for a moment. Back in 2017, there was a flurry of late-night ladies, taking the stage for comedic interviews and commentary. Samantha Bee was one of them, with her show, Full Frontal with Samantha Bee.

As we near the end of 2019, most of those women-led, late-night series’ are gone. Bee wasn’t shy about sharing her thoughts on the subject.

Who didn’t make the cut?

Samantha Bee arrives for the TBS' "Full Frontal With Samantha Bee" For Your Consideration event at Samuel Goldwyn Theater.
Samantha Bee | Gabriel Olsen/FilmMagic

The Rundown with Robin Thede on BET, I Love You, America with Sarah Silverman on Hulu, and Break with Michelle Wolf on Netflix, were all leading series’ launches in 2017 and 2018. The other commonality? They all were canceled after one season.

Bee’s Full Frontal appears to be the only show to make the cut. She has since been joined by Lilly Singh, and her late-night debut replacing Carson Daly’s Last Call. Singh, a 30-year-old Canadian YouTube star, has been doing her best to hold her own with A Little Late with Lilly Singh. It’s still early, but it does look promising that she’s made the transition from YouTube-style vlogging to late-night talk show material.

When Variety pointed out to Bee that she’s the only one left, Bee wasn’t thrilled.

“It’s a bit unsettling,” Bee told Variety. “It’s been a bad year to be a woman in this space. It’s not really a badge that I want to wear.”

How is Lilly Singh doing?

Singh was a powerhouse in the YouTube world, with millions of subscribers and billions of views. But, she may be struggling to transition to a role as host in late-night television.

She landed in the big league with her first attempt on NBC too. So, there’s an added layer of pressure.

Singh came in strong, though, determined to keep her dialogue realistic. Unfortunately, some of the first impressions of her are that she’s not really that funny. After all, she’s not a comedian, so reciting written humor isn’t coming off as hilarious.

Her pre-taped segments are also being reported as weak, with too much YouTube-style flavor, not translatable to television. What Singh does have is her charismatic personality and unique take on prominent and timely topics. Some of her fellow late-night showrunners agree, including Bee.

Bee has been supportive of Singh, and those who feel A Little Later with Lilly Singh needs a little time to let the show come together around Singh’s dynamic personality.

What Samantha Bee really thinks about the late-night landscape

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Bee has never been shy about offering her unapologetic views on a variety of topics. In fact, it’s that same tenacious authenticity viewers have grown to love about her late-night series.

Bee thinks Singh needs to be given a chance to develop her own flavor. As the countless shows that have come and gone over the last two years, women have not been given a fair opportunity to grow into their roles.

“I don’t feel good being the last woman standing in this space currently,” Bee said to Variety. “It doesn’t fill my heart with gladness that Busy was canceled, Michelle Wolf’s show is gone, Sarah Silverman’s show is gone. It’s not great.”

Bee also thinks the shortage of successful women in late-night transcends behind the camera too. In a recent report by the LA Times, only three shows have more than 25% female writers and staff. Bee often credits her own teams regularly, and shared with Vanity Fair in a recent interview: “This is 65 people who are all at the top of their game.”

She brags about the talent behind her show, including female directors, writers, and journalists who always get it right.

Samantha Bee is a different kind of late-night host

With her debut in 2016, Bee has been marching to her own beat, with a completely different style of commentary and banter, that seems to be dazzling her viewers. She commands attention and knows her craft well. She is a passionate advocate and does not mince words as she delivers.

Unlike the traditional male counterparts in late-night, Bee doesn’t opt for the soft-spoken, humorous and light-hearted monologue delivery. Instead, she embodies a more direct, raw, and poignant approach to her discussions. She covers what many other hosts won’t and does so with an emotional flare that viewers appreciate.

Bee has been successful, in part, because audiences can empathize with her anger and emotional unrest with various topics and issues today. She’ll continue to blaze the late-night trail and encourages other women in the same vein. She’ll rock this late-night gig, and we’ll keep watching her.