When you're in Hollywood, you can witness screen magic in person in many different ways. Some shows film live to tape, which means you're there, they're there and it all happens as if we're in real time even though nobody will see this on TV until hours later (which means we could see it twice, you guys!). Other TV shows and movies film at a hurry-up-and-wait pace, which means if you're there, it's exciting for the first two seconds, then not exciting again until hours later when the one person says "Rolling!" and the other person says "Action!" and then the famous people begin saying their lines on camera. The Wanda Sykes Show on FOX operates on that other, rarer schedule, which is taped before a live audience, but without regard to clocks because it tapes a night ahead of its air date.
Which is how you can find yourself spending two hours on a Friday night watching a show that's ultimately only 40 minutes long when it airs on Saturday night.
Not that that's not fun. If you're at Stage 56 inside CBS Television City in Los Angeles, then you get to see that around the corner is The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, and if you look it up on Wikipedia (which is a thing that exists), then you'll learn that Sykes tapes where The Pat Sajak Show taped. History! You'll also get to experience the unique anti-warm-up skills of comedian Brody Stevens -- you'll learn a lot about Brody, which will come in handy in your Trivial Pursuit games of the future -- and also a tight stand-up set from Sykes' announcer sidekick, Keith Robinson. Robinson, a regular host at the Comedy Cellar when he was living in New York City, moved out to L.A. to join his longtime friend Sykes for her show. Their chemistry shows on-camera, too, as you believe that's the one segment in the show in which they don't need a teleprompter. Here's an extra video in which Sykes and Robinson dish on one another.
Remember when I said it took two hours to film 40 minutes? What up with that? This is up with that. Sykes had several stops and starts with her opening monologue, muffing enough lines that at one point between takes, she turned to the audience and joked: "Boy, that was rough, huh?" "When you see this on TV, it'll look so smooth," Sykes added. "You can play a drinking game at home, and say, 'She f*cked up right there!" In the few hours they had to edit the footage, they wisely cut one of the clunkier bits with drag queen Porsche and an audience member, but they also had to drop some wild and silly moments with Sykes' roundtable panel guests: JB Smoove, Margaret Cho and Seth Green. I suppose they had to keep that "Inappropriate Games" segment with one of Sykes' production assistants (because he appeared and got credited in the good-nights), but really, the panel with Smoove, Cho and Green provided more of the fun and unexpected moments that would make for good television viewing. More of that, please!
To do that, perhaps they should just go ahead and tape it live-to-tape, or even just go live with it on Saturday night. You know. Like that other live show on Saturday night. Do it. Do. It. Magic.
People want to know about the debut of any late-night talk show, even if the debut is not necessarily going to be a good judge of what the show will end up looking and sounding like. These things take time. That said, Wanda Sykes launched her new entry into late-night TV this past Saturday night on FOX (replacing MADtv, which meant she'd be going against Saturday Night Live for her second half-hour), and you probably want to know how it went. Here are a few thoughts on The Wanda Sykes Show...
Sykes started with a fairly strong monologue. Sure, she showed her liberal stripes -- which, being on FOX, played to her rebellious streak -- but compared to weekly rants by Bill Maher on HBO (or D.L. Hughley a year ago on CNN), it's not too dangerous of a proposition. And Sykes made sure to deliver.
In her second segment, she introduced her longtime friend and opening act Keith Robinson, who is playing the role of her sidekick. Robinson is a frequent host at the Comedy Cellar in NYC, and any of his friends routinely call him a "dummy." And not in the Jeff Dunham way. Sykes let Robinson go off on a bit he wanted to talk about having a superpower that identifies babies crying??? They did have some fun with video soon afterward, though. There also was a Paranormal Activity parody. So far, s'ok. Then Sykes delivered a second monologue? Hmmm. Sykes has a drag queen on her show named Porsche for reasons yet to be explained. Her segment about going green for her sex toys could have used some better editing and funnier interactions. When we checked in next with Sykes, she was holding court over a drink-fueled panel with Phil Keoghan, Darryl Chill Mitchell and Mary Lynn Rajskub -- this lasted two segments and felt like a cross between Maher's Real Time, The View's Hot Topics and Comics Unleashed; in other words, weirdly planned. Her drag queen friend, Porsche, came out for the panel, so to speak, to play a game called "Inappropriate Games" in which they had to guess what part of Asia different celebrities hailed from. "What do you think, Mary Lynn?" Sykes asked at one point. "What is happening?" Rajskub replied. What. Is. Happening. No, seriously. What is happening? I'm not entirely sure. The show averaged a 2.2 rating and a 5 share in early Nielsen ratings estimates, which made FOX execs happy since that was more viewers than they were getting for either MADtv or Spike Feresten's Talk Show with Spike Feresten, although this was a premiere, so you'd expect more people to take the show out for a test drive.
The next episode airs Nov. 14. I'll have to wait and watch the next few weeks before I know how I feel about this show. Here is the whole debut for you to watch and make your own calls: