Television has given us a lot of great things over the past decade, but it's really dropped the ball on Wanda Sykes. A 2003 FOX sitcom focus-grouped the hell out of a comic whose best features are her lemon-sour reaction shots and irreverent approach to anything and everything; a subsequent Comedy Central outing was yanked after six episodes. So Sykes bobbed along as a supporting player for the Seinfeld crowd, infusing shows like Curb Your Enthusiasm and The New Adventures of Old Christine with her peppery delivery and a gorgon-like stare of disdain.
("Gorgon" is a complement, by the way. Who among us hasn't dreamed of being able to stop someone from doing something dumb with just a stare?)
Television's making up the Wanda oversight to us because -- o frabjous day! -- Sykes is gracing America with her sharp observations and sharper delivery every Saturday night on The Wanda Sykes Show (11 p.m., FOX). The format is pretty basic -- an opening skit of some sort, a monologue commenting on current events, then a roundtable discussion with a random assortment of people -- so it doesn't necessarily require you to be either sober or fully awake at that hour.
However, the show's also delightful when you're watching it fully awake and/or sober. Although it's not above using celebrity-type sketches for an easy laugh, Sykes' take on current events -- unapologetic about calling out idiocy wherever she sees it, cackling over things she finds absurd -- is a lot more barbed than whatever "Really? Really?" schitck Seth Meyer is doing on "Weekend Update."
Plus, if you're paying attention, you can really appreciate the moment when Sykes is cracking herself up. And you can do so on Hulu -- as of this writing, all the episodes are up. The season premiere is especially worthwhile: Amazing Race host Phil Keoghan is one of the guests, and watching him try to fend of Sykes' inquiries about his opinions on spanking your kids is giggle-inducing.
My only complaint about the Wanda Sykes Show is that it's weekly. This is a show that should be a weeknightly part of the Comedy Central block. Much as I enjoy The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, both shows have the same comedic sensibility; they're written (mostly) by well-educated white men whose ironic take on current events is entertaining but ultimately toothless. These are people who can afford to be outraged by current events at a safe remove. Sykes, on the other hand, has no problem reminding people that the political affects her personally -- she quipped recently, "I'm not afraid of terrorists. I'm a black, gay woman. Terrorists don't even make my top five."
The Wanda Sykes Show may end up as another example of mainstream TV not knowing quite what to do with someone who owns so many "outsider" labels and, by commenting on pop culture and politics, inserts herself as an equal in the late-night TV commenting arena. So set your DVR, subscribe on Hulu or stay up to watch her while you still can.