Monday, January 30, 2023

TV: The last thing anyone needs is more of the same

Wanda Sykes hosted COMEDY CENTRAL's THE DAILY SHOW last week and the main thing is demonstrated is that she should never host again.

Was she that bad?  She was that so-much-like-everyone-else, that's what she was.

Leslie Jones owns the spot after her hosting gig two weeks ago.  The reason for that?  She made it her own.  She stamped it with her persona and personality -- the way  Jon Stewart did when he took the job after Craig Kilborn.  And that is why the ratings soared under Jon's leadership.  Craig didn't do a bad show and he was frequently funny.  But there was no real reason to watch.

No real reason to watch sums up Trevor Noah's tenure.  He never had a point of view.  He never had a voice.  He told jokes a little and minced a lot.  Stephen Colbert could have taken his own character that he'd played for years and done THE DAILY SHOW with that voice and probably Jon's audience would have stuck with him.

But Trevor Noah was a nightmare -- a different person from night to night, always the same delivery (mincing) and viewers ran away in hoards.  A hit show that all the other networks -- cable and broadcast -- envied became the show no one wanted.

The next host needs to be able to rebuild and that's going to take a vision.  

At best, Wanda showed she could copy.  At best. 

That's not what anyone needs.

except all the radios agree with all the tvs
and all the magazines agree with all the radios
and i keep hearing that same damn song everywhere i go
maybe i should put a bucket over my head
and a marshmallow in each ear
and stumble around for
another dumb-numb week for another hum drum hit song to appear
-- "Fuel," written by Ani DiFranco, first appears on her LITTLE PLASTIC CASTLES 

Repeating, that's not what anyone needs.

And Wanda can certainly carry on that tradition.  She offered tired and dull 'jokes' as though it were 2017 and not 2023.  Since she was attempting topical humor, that was a problem.

As feminists, we were also bothered by one of her guests: Katha Pollitt. 

Wanda brought Katha on so they could chat about abortion.  Katha writes bad columns for THE NATION.  One of those bad columns, please understand, was about the lack of African-Americans on television.

"Good for Katha!"  Back that up.

Not good for Katha.

Katha wasn't decrying the lack of representation.  She was using her single page in THE NATION to call out the NAACP for objecting to the very few African-Americans on television.  Katha huffed that this wasn't a real issue and that there were more important point things to focus on.

For those who don't know, Katha is Anglo White and Wanda is African-American.

Did Wanda feel feminists need to be represented on TV?  If so, way to go, Wanda; however, if you're trying to address representation maybe don't do it with a woman who only cares that her own fat ass is represented and who has attacked the NAACP or is Kimberle Crenshaw's concept of intersectionality too much for you to process and comprehend?

We comprehended, we got that, last week, Wanda was Crickett, Barb, Ruby, Daphne and all the other names she used while playing the same character in one TV show and/or film after another.  It's not bad but it's not fresh.  

Nor is Wanda fresh to TV hosting. THE WANDA SYKES SHOW was her late night entry back in 2009 and it ran for 21 episodes before being cancelled.  She did not turn the world on -- with her smile or anything else -- back then and doing the same thing over again while expecting different results may be a definition of programming, but it's not good programming.

"I could do that."  Viewers like a host that makes the job look so easy they're left thinking they could do it as well.  But the trick there is that a good host makes it look easy when it's really not easy.  A bad host?  A bad host did what Wanda did last week (and back in 2009) which is what you see in any elementary school on a Monday after SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE aired: A lot of kids trying to get laughs from the same material that got laughs the previous Saturday night when handled by professionals.

She wasn't bad -- she's a professional stand up comic -- she was, however, boring.

She did THE DAILY SHOW the same way anyone else could have done it.

There was no real energy -- and she's not a physical comedian -- as a comic she doesn't exist below the neckline.  She aped the men of late night.

Jon Stewart had a passion and an energy and a need to prove himself.  We say that as two people who love Jon (and know him) but we say it because it's true.  Leslie has that drive.  And she made each episode about her vision and her voice.  She was a full bodied comedian, working with everything she had, throwing herself into the role.  Chelsea Handler is another one who wants the spot but she has the same problem that Wanda has -- she's stale and dated and both seem to believe that people tune in for those real interviews -- and not the mock segments.  Yes, Chelsea can interview -- so could Dinah Shore but Dinah would have had the brains to grasp THE DAILY SHOW requires a lot more than an ability to interview.  THE DAILY SHOW stood out because it was not a Sunday chat & chew a la MEET THE PRESS.  COMEDY CENTRAL is going to go through other try-outs over the next week.   If someone tops Leslie, we'll gladly note it here.  But right now, she's the only real hope for the future of the show, she brought energy, drive and a unique point of view that made the show come alive. 






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