It looks like comedienne Wanda Sykes can add "former host of late-night talk show" to her resume. Punchline Magazine reported today that FOX cancelled The Wanda Sykes Show. Saddled in an impossible time slot, 11 p.m. on Saturday nights, the show seemed doomed from infancy as it underwent format tweaking over the course of the year and suffered poor ratings.
Sykes joins the ranks of FOX late-night orphans, Arsenio Hall, Magic Johnson (cringe), and I'm-Chevy-Chase-Thank-God-You're-Not. Not exactly a stellar group of alums. However, her departure from late-night, at least on this network, raises the question: Why haven't women faired better in late-night programming over all?
It is a question I raised on a post months ago when Conangate broke and bears repeating in light of Sykes television flub and the rise of figures like George Lopez and Chelsea Handler on different networks. Arguably there were many factors that contributed to the lack luster response to The Wanda Sykes Show such as the afore mentioned time slot, the awkward and not always consistent format, that her show aired one night a week when other late-night shows typically air for all five, and that Sykes might lack the same energy, charisma, persona, or comic sensibilities as Handler, Lopez, and others like Jimmy Kimmel or Craig Ferguson. Not everyone can pull off the talk show gig, daytime or night.
That Wanda Sykes was able to stay in the boys club of late-night talk as long as she did is admirable and offers inspiration for women working their through the ranks of the comedic arts industry. But it also serves as a cautionary tale to networks, the power brokers in so many comediennes' careers, that the failure rate of women in late-night is too high, the risk not worth taking.