Is The Wanda Sykes Show an uproarious, biting and insightful look at politics and the events of the previous week? Yes and no.
Yes in the first half-hour of Fox's Saturday-night entry, and no in the second.
Picking up from where she left off at the White House Correspondents' Dinner in May (where she hoped for the failure of Rush Limbaugh's kidneys in response to his hope for the failure of Obama's presidency), Sykes presented a spirited and well-crafted defense of the new administration.
Though it lacked some of the subtle wit and sophistication found on Jon Stewart's Daily Show, it nonetheless provided a worthwhile perspective on where American is today compared to where it was at the end of the Bush presidency.
The political riff was preceded by an ineffective jab at shrill conservative Ann Coulter. In a taped piece, Coulter was shown making pounding noises each time she batted her eyelashes. Given the sheer volume of Coulter's specious and outrageous comments, it's hard to believe the show's writers thought she would be most vulnerable to eyebrow humor.
In a segment called Wanderama, Sykes touched on the meaning, or lack thereof, of last week's scattered elections, the financial distress of Nicolas Cage and Sen. Joseph Lieberman's threat to filibuster health reform in the Senate. On a lighter -- but funnier -- note, Sykes threw in a taped piece on possible ways the adult industry could be more environmentally conscious.
It was, overall, a smart start, though it had a few potholes, as well. The biggest of these was the inclusion of Sykes' friend and comic Keith Richardson as a quasi-sidekick. In that capacity, he was about as useful as an echo chamber.
The second half featured Sykes with a panel comprised of Daryl Chill Mitchell (from Fox's Brothers), Mary Lynn Rajskub (from Fox's 24) and Phil Keoghan (from CBS' The Amazing Race). On his HBO show, Bill Maher often elicits pointed and thought-provoking comments from this type of panel. Sykes never tried.
Guests were asked to weigh in on a news story that said parents are replacing spankings with screaming. When that topic was beyond exhausted, panelists commented on the idea of a space hotel in 2012. You could have found more insight on Hollywood Squares.
The show ended with the panel taking part in a segment called Inappropriate Games. In this week's game, Know Your Asian, panelists guessed the correct Asian country of birth for Yankee slugger Hideki Matsui and actress Ming Na. Inappropriate? Not as much as it was insipid.