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Is Wanda Sykes’s Brand New Show Really, Really Bad? Pretty Much

We didn’t have many expectations for Wanda Sykes‘s new Saturday night chat show on Fox. But we did expect it to be funny. It wasn’t.

She’s got some Daily Show elements going, riffing on television clips (see Part 2). She’s got sidekicks. A guest panel. And a drag queen (see Part 4)! What she doesn’t have is any momentum.

Rather than “Hot Topics” a la The View, The Wanda Sykes Show has “Wandarama.” It is modeled off SNL‘s “Weekend Update” with a touch of Stephen Colbert’s The Word.” But the material, while probably funny when rehearsed in the mirror, falls flat in front of a studio audience. (The show is taped over two days during the week.) The punchlines in this monologue remind us of Jay Leno’s unfunny, lowest common denominator approach.

Wanda deserves better than this. And so do her viewers.

She made her name on the stand-up circuit and branched out on The Chris Rock Show. But maybe there’s a reason she works better as a sidekick on The New Adventures of Old Christine and the complaining lady on Curb Your Enthusiasm: She’s great to inject bemoaning foil, but that cannot carry an entire program. Wanda’s 2003 attempt at a headlining solo show, the sitcom Wanda at Large, lasted nine episodes; Fox executives killed it during the second season, leaving five episodes unaired.

She appears uncomfortable (or is it unrehearsed?) in front of a teleprompter. Her shtick — blunt observations that are anything but politically correct — isn’t working in long form. When she gathers around the table for a panel discussion, the end result isn’t the quick delivery of Chelsea Handler & Co., but a stagnant stab at unscripted banter. While Wanda has the ambition of a political commentator show, it reads as a variety show — and that didn’t work for Rosie.

We’re just one episode in, so we won’t write Wanda’s show off just yet. And we really, really want to like this program. But this thing was exhausting and painful to watch. And last we checked, Wanda wasn’t in to S&M.