Samantha Bee has been tilting at giants for almost three years. Now she’s become one herself.
Starting tonight, in a new opening sequence for her satirical program “Full Frontal” on TBS, Bee will be depicted as a curious titan striding across America, shaking hands with the Statue of Liberty, opening the dome of the Capitol in Washington, D.C., to peer inside and lifting up part of a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico. In the past, the show’s opening sequence has depicted a tiny Bee entering an arena ready to take on gargantuan figures. The change, one of a handful to crop up on the program, is aimed at letting viewers know that Bee is no longer an upstart in the field of late-night comedy, but rather a full-fledged voice on the scene.
“As the show grows its audience and the voice of the show grows, the show has to evolve,” Bee told Variety (Don’t worry, Bee die-hards: Peaches’ “Boys Wanna Be Her” remains the “Full Frontal” theme song).
Viewers this evening will also notice a new set with brighter colors and a reworked logo (above, pictured). In the show’s most recent broadcast in August, “Full Frontal” featured a short segment showing Bee and a crowd getting rid of the show’s old trappings.
Bee said the ideas for refreshing the program have been under consideration since earlier in the year, well in advance of the controversy spurred in May when Bee uttered an epithet to describe President Donald Trump’s daughter, Ivanka. Some advertisers left the program for a period of a few weeks, though the program appears to have run with a fuller ad load in recent broadcasts.
When “Full Frontal” debuts Wednesday evening, viewers will learn a lot more about a new mobile-app game that Bee and her staff have spent months preparing. “This Is Not A Game – The Game:” aims to get viewers more engaged with the nation’s looming midterm elections, using trivia and the chance to win cash prizes to spur people of any political background to vote in November. Staffers have had to come up with dozens of funny questions and humorous lines for notifications, and, while Bee won’t commit to it, there seems to be genuine interest among producers in seeing if this concept has legs.
“It lasts until voting day,” says Bee of the game, “and then it remains to be seen what’s going to happen with it.” She adds: “This is truly a learning experience for us. We will see what happens afterwards. For now, we are keeping it tight. We are very excited about it – and very curious.’
Producers seem to be experimenting with other parts of the show, which in recent weeks has placed renewed emphasis on field pieces (one recent segment had Bee making fun of James Corden’s “Carpool Karaoke” and Jerry Seinfeld’s “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee,” all in the space of a few minutes. “Full Frontal” also recently featured a musical number by singer Brandi Carlisle. “Occasionally, you have these fantasy ideas about who would potentially say ‘yes'” to a request to come on the show, says Bee. “We asked her a long time ago,and she said ‘Yes’ to us.”
Release of the app is the latest indicator of how much more work late-night programs are doing to stay top of mind with viewers who won’t always stay up late to see them (Bee’s program runs in primetime at 10:30 p.m. eastern, but is often compared and contrasted with such stuff as “The Late Show,” The Tonight Show” and “The Daily Show.”). The staffs at nearly all of the programs are launching everything from extra jokes and commentary on Twitter to new TV series based on popular running segments. Bee’s new app may be among the most ambitious of these projects, because users will require regular alerts and notifications to stay involved with the app across a number of weeks.
Bee and her producers had to enlist help from Silicon Valley. “We went into it as complete naifs,” she says. “We didn’t know how the Silicon Valley process worked.” Now, Bee may have another giant element with which to spar.