Busy Tonight

TV review by
Jenny Nixon, Common Sense Media
Busy Tonight TV Poster Image
Sitcom star struggles to find her footing as talk show host.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

Philipps frequently references "self-care" and encourages viewers to relax, put on a sheet mask, and zen out in these trying times. Very occasionally, she will touch on more substantial topics and give her take on them.

Positive Role Models & Representations

It's always a plus seeing another woman in the late-night landscape, which has long been dominated by male hosts.

Violence
Sex

Some suggestive jokes here and there, nothing too extreme.

Consumerism

Products and services that Philipps loves are mentioned by name, like Thinx brand menstrual panties, SoulCycle, and more.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Philipps is shown drinking cocktails in every episode, offering them to her guests and sometimes remarking on their favorite types of alcohol.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Busy Tonight is a late-night talk show hosted by actress and Instagram personality Busy Philipps. The show is aimed at adults, and features frank discussions and occasionally some suggestive humor. Each episode features Philipps drinking alcoholic beverages with her guests and sometimes discussing their fave cocktails.

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What's the story?

BUSY TONIGHT, the newest late-night talk show offering from the E! network, is hosted by sitcom star Busy Philipps, perhaps best known for her work on Cougar Town and Freaks and Geeks. Philipps has enjoyed a growing popularity thanks to her accessible, effervescent Instagram presence, and Busy Tonight seeks to capitalize on that, only in a 30-minute chat format. The set looks like a hipster's dream living room, which serves as a cozy backdrop for Philipps to interview and drink cocktails with her various celebrity guests. A trio of staff writers serves as a Greek chorus of sorts, occasionally offering commentary from the first row of the audience. Each show ends with Phillips changing into her nightgown (fondly referred to as "Mr. Nightgown") and sending viewers off with a lullaby. 

Is it any good?

This show came about in large part due to the popularity of Philipps' Instagram account and its off-the-cuff, ad-libbed charm -- none of which, sadly, translates to this stilted, unfocused talk show. The word "awkward" springs to mind while watching Philipps go through the motions of hosting, from the scattered monologues to the forced banter with her staff writers, which doesn't really add up to much. Philipps herself has a likable, naturally funny persona when left to her own devices -- the spontaneity of her online presence was a big part of the charm, and here she comes across best in the bits that seem looser and more unscripted. There's an extended discussion with guest Kristen Bell about favorite feminine hygiene products that touches on issues of sexism inherent in poverty, self-love and bodily autonomy that's revealing and just great.

That said, a good talk show requires that the host be able to deftly sit back and make their guests the most interesting people in the room, something that can be difficult if your interview style is too casual. Being the enthusiastic "best friend" type is all well and good, but we sometimes end up learning a lot more about Busy and her love of sheet masks and SoulCycle than we do anything else. The lullaby that marks the end of each episode is a strange addition that comes off more contrived than cute. A late night show trying to do something fresh and unexpected is a good thing, but Busy Tonight thus far is a reminder of how hard it can be to trap lightning in a bottle.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about celebrities and actors who try to transition into other roles, such as talk show host. This has been attempted before Busy Tonight, by performers such as Queen Latifah and Alec Baldwin (who has tried it twice). In what ways might a celeb-fronted talk show come across differently than other offerings in this genre?

  • What makes a person a good interviewer? What are some questions you might ask someone when trying to learn something new about them?

TV details

For kids who love talk shows

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