The two segments that bookended Fox’s new “The Wanda Sykes Show” — the comic’s opening monologue, and a loosey-goosey panel infused by conspicuous consumption of cocktails — possessed moments of goofy humor. Everything in between, alas, proved an amateurish mess. Sykes obviously isn’t for everybody, but she does have a tart, irreverent stand-up delivery. At first glance, though, without some fine-tuning that’s an awfully slim platform even for those who share her politics to support this weekly hour, which Fox has tapped to replace “Madtv.”
Sykes opened with a partisan barrage of gags aimed at President Obama’s critics, anointing herself the president’s “Tell people where to go and what to kiss” czar. She also made a point of singling out Fox News, perhaps in part to burnish her “I’m willing to bite the thumb of the hand that feeds me” credentials.
After that, the show drifted aimlessly through a riff with announcer Keith Robinson, a lame trip to sex shops and an adult-industry convention, and a kind of “Headlines” knockoff dubbed “Wandarama.” Each was as uninspired as it was derivative.
Nor did it help that the camera kept pulling back to reveal an inordinately boring, tiny-looking set and a studio audience that appeared to consist of about 12 people, making you wonder from where all those muted laughs were coming.
Finally, Sykes settled into a not-quite-discussion with three guests — “24’s” Mary Lynn Rajskub, “Brothers'” Daryl Chill Mitchell and “The Amazing Race’s” Phil Keoghan — where the quartet casually sipped drinks and held forth on various inanities. Sykes didn’t exactly distinguish herself as a moderator in this setting, but at least the show periodically sparked to life — which might suggest junking some of the lame taped or staged bits and expanding the panel. It’s admittedly a hit-miss approach but couldn’t be worse than most of what preceded it.
All told, “The Wanda Sykes Show” is off to a decidedly shaky start. The program opens by flashing a big “W” on the screen, which presumably stands for “Wanda.” Yet after the first hour, one might as easily be tempted to read it as “Why?”