With her first season finale only a week away, Wanda Sykes has yet to learn whether Fox will pick up her fledgling late-night talk show for a second year. The hour-long program — which has featured guests like Erykah Badu, Chris Rock, Ray Romano, and Lisa Kudrow — has struggled to find an audience against NBC mainstay Saturday Night Live; so far this season, Sykes has averaged 2.1 million viewers and a 0.8 rating among adults 18-49, well below SNL’s 2.9 rating and down from what Fox’s Mad TV was averaging in the time period last year (a 1.1). Her show performs admirably in the young demographics, especially teens.
Sykes may have a couple of things working in her favor as she prepares for the April 24 finale: She’s the only late-night star who boasts a prime-time profile on a competing network (though ironically, the Emmy-winning comedy in which she co-stars, The New Adventures of Old Christine, has yet learn whether it will receive a fall 2010 pickup from CBS). And given how Fox lost its bid for Conan O’Brien, Sykes represents the network’s sole late night presence, even if she just appears on Saturdays.
Unlike prime-time series, late-night talk shows are usually given time to build an audience. It took CBS’ Craig Ferguson, for instance, three years before he started beating the competition (which was O’Brien, before he transitioned to The Tonight Show). Sykes tries to offer something the other late-night hosts don’t: lively panel discussions and adult beverages.
Guests for the April 17 show will be Tom Bergeron (Dancing with the Stars), Columbus Short (Death at a Funeral), and boxer Leila Ali. Next week’s finale will feature visits from Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad) and musician Tommy Lee. The verdict on Sykes’ second season probably won’t be learned until mid-May, when Fox presents its fall lineup to advertisers in New York.