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Samantha Bee and Jason Jones: The Queen and King of TBS

by Stacy Lambe 7:00 AM PST, February 21, 2017
Photo: Getty Images

While Samantha Bee and Jason Jones might not necessarily consider themselves the queen and king of TBS, the home of Full Frontal With Samantha Bee and The Detour, the fact that TV’s newest power couple has helped usher in a new era for the network is nothing to treat lightly.

Now in its second season, Full Frontal’s ratings have skyrocketed, with the audience doubling in size from the first season’s premiere to the second. Paired with Conan, the satirical news program has made TBS a formidable player in the late-night arena. Meanwhile, The Detour, the ribald -- Jones’ preferred adjective over “raunchy” -- family comedy which returns for season two on Tuesday, Feb. 21, led a 2016 slate of critically acclaimed comedies, including Angie Tribeca (which premiered ahead of The Detour), People of Earth, Wrecked and Search Party. All of the shows were renewed for a second season, while Angie Tribeca was renewed for a third, which is set to premiere April 10.

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“Can you tell them that?” Jones, a former Daily Show correspondent of 10 years, jokes to ET about the idea of becoming network royalty, adding that he and his wife, Bee, who spent 12 years on Comedy Central’s long-running satirical news program, have been too busy to truly entertain the idea of their recent success on TBS -- something Jones says is best encapsulated by a time they went out for dinner to a busy restaurant. About to turn away, the hostess suddenly found a table for the couple. “Sam was like, ‘How did that happen?’ It was like, ‘C’mon, you know!’ And she was like, ‘I don’t know.’”

“You won’t believe this, but we don’t hear much about how people receive the show. I’m sure TBS knows,” Bee recently told The New York Times when asked about whether she was concerned her political views would make audiences change the channel. While it’s certainly novel, it’s not a totally unbelievable idea that both of them would focus on putting their heads down and pushing to do their best work possible. “It’s one of the most challenging and rewarding things that I have ever done,” Bee told the Los Angeles Times in January. 

That’s not to say the pressure isn’t there. In fact, there’s more, Jones says, because there’s a base level of expectation. “With that said, I think we doubled down. I don’t like numbers because I think they’re more subjective than politics, but I think [The Detour] is twice as funny.”

After Bee and Jones left The Daily Show in 2015, the same year longtime host Jon Stewart stepped down, the couple worked closely together to launch the two new shows, with Bee, who co-created The Detour, writing two episodes for the first season and Jones sitting in Full Frontal’s writers’ room through the presidential primaries. Now, with each show firmly established, Jones and Bee largely serve more as sounding boards for each other. “But, you know, we run ideas by each other. We look at each other’s scripts and watch each other’s rough cuts,” Jones says, adding that while they’re not involved in the day-to-day, they still play “pretty instrumental” roles in both Full Frontal and The Detour.

In fact, Bee says she prefers “to be an outside set of eyes” when it comes to The Detour, which is loosely inspired by her marriage to Jones and their three kids. She co-wrote the first episode of season two, which sees Nate Parker (Jones) and his family (his onscreen wife is played by Natalie Zea) moving to New York City after spending most of season one in a minivan on the worst road trip ever. Bee will also reprise her mostly unnoticeable role as Parker’s mother. “This year, she’s in soft focus behind Nate, who is sobbing again,” Jones says.

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And for his part, Jones is working with the Full Frontal team to figure out how exactly he’ll be involved with Bee’s “Not the White House Correspondents’ Dinner” event on April 29. “I’m looking to do something,” he says, suggesting that he might also someday return as a field producer on Full Frontal.

Until he does, Jones can appreciate -- from his perspective at least -- the importance of Bee’s upcoming event, which will benefit the Committee to Project Journalists. “We’re going through a period where great journalism is being passed off as fake news,” Jones says, referring to the legitimate media outlets President Donald Trump often dismisses in the press. “[To] fund great investigative journalism is important to the both of us. This is our tiny way to give back.” 

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