The Problem with Jon Stewart (Apple TV+)

So hey, Jon Stewart is back! I was surprised to see that even though I don’t subscribe to Apple TV+ anymore, the first episode is on there for free.

I really enjoyed it, in a downer way of finding out about an issue that I had absolutely no awareness of. So I don’t know if “enjoy” is the right word. It’s a good first episode.

I haven’t seen the new show but I’ve read about it a bit. I like Jon but I don’t like panel discussions at all. Think I’ll stick with John Oliver for now.

It felt really awkward, so hopefully that’s just first-episode jitters. I worry that a 40+ minute deep-dive into a serious topic that involves death doesn’t provide opportunities to lighten the load with Stewart’s comedy style. Even John Oliver has short segments that you can laugh at before/after getting outraged about something.

The Washington Post’s TV writer, who counts herself a Jon Stewart fan, felt the same way based on the first two episodes:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/arts-entertainment/tv/2021/09/30/problem-with-jon-stewart-review/

She also feels his competition is doing what he used to do just fine, which renders him kind of superfluous:

John Oliver is the “undisputed apotheosis” of the format.

-Tom

I don’t think of John Oliver’s show as a version of Stewart’s Daily Show. The Daily Show was more of a comedy show. Sure there would be a 5 minute bit about something serious, but then there would be a joke, and then there would be a bunch of stuff that wasn’t serious at all. John Oliver feels like 30 minutes of him telling me how horrible the world is with an occasional joke thrown in. That’s an exaggeration, but I don’t really enjoy the show. I do watch it, at least the intro before it gets ultra-serious.

I haven’t found any of the comedy news shoes to be as good as the old Daily Show.

For the record, I was quoting Inkoo Kang and not making that pronouncement myself! I just find it striking when someone casually says something subjective is “undisputed”. I like Kang a lot, but if I were her editor, I would have suggested taking out that word. :)

-Tom

You’re remembering with rose colored glasses. The weakness of the Stewart era Daily Show is that it was on like four nights a week. Nobody could maintain quality with so much time to fill. (The weakness of the Noah era Daily Show is Noah isn’t funny.)

That’s the brilliance of Oliver’s show. It’s weekly. The weakness of his show is he’s the only face on screen.

Desus & Mero are hilarious but they aren’t trying to do news, they basically just crack jokes about Worldstar vids.

I watched the Daily Show religiously. Never missed it. Even paid for it on iTunes for the year I was in Korea. In the last couple of years, he was burned out and the quality of the show suffered, but I still liked it. I still never missed it.

I have no urge to watch John Oliver. I do, but I don’t care if I miss an episode. I don’t really enjoy it when I do watch it, it’s just depressing. So I don’t think I am misremembering it.

I only saw Desus & Mero once. I didn’t get any of it. I’m sure they are great, I just didn’t get the cultural references.

My favorite of all these shows is still The Colbert Report. It was amazing.

Yes I would put the Colbert Report at #1, followed by Oliver, then Stewart-era Daily Show. Below that a lot of shows that suck. Sam Bee, Noah Daily, etc.

Desus & Mero are a different thing.

I haven’t yet watched Stewart’s new show, but I just listened to the first episode of the podcast (I am unclear if there is content that is shared between the two or of the podcast is an extension of the show material topics).

There’s a lot of comparison going on about The Daily Show vs the new wave of TDS protoges and whether Stewart has any more relevance in the modern era. I think the thing to remember here is that The Daily Show correspondents who are doing their own news comedy spinoffs (and doing a good job) are comedians first and foremost. Jon Stewart, in my opinion is something beyond that. He’s a rare combination of a deep thinker and a person who can speak intelligently and passionately off-script about issues that matter to him. I don’t think there is a single TDS correspondent who can hang with him on that level. Possibly Colbert, once upon a time, but years of catering to a mainstream audience as a headliner for a major broadcast network has severely dulled his edge.

I agree that a panel format is generally not the most appealing to me and maybe it hurts his draw by being less of a comedy show. But thinking back on some of Jon Stewart’s greatest hits (running circles around Tucker Carlson, Jim Cramer, and Bill O’Reilly) the format should, at least in theory, be somewhere he can shine. By having important and necessary conversations where he can use that brain of his to cut through the bullshit, I am optimistic that he’s doing the right thing by leaning into his earnestness over comedy. I do miss the old days of The Daily Show but John Oliver and others are doing a fine enough job running with that torch.

Again I haven’t watched the show yet and wouldn’t be surprised if it has some rough edges at the moment. But listening to the podcast made me realize how much value Stewart brings just by having conversations.

There hasn’t not much attention on this show other than Stewart recently bearing the wrath of thinkpiece writers for defending Joe Rogan’s right to engage in conversations with controversial figures.

And there haven’t been any new episodes for a while anyway (and those that did air I think could use a little tightening up).

But I felt this thread was worth bumping to bring more attention to the podcast, which is still released on a regular schedule and is excellent. And particularly to bring attention to the latest episode featuring a long form interview with Bryan Stevenson of the Equal Justice Initiative. It has to be one of the most genuine and inspiring conversations I’ve ever heard on the topic of race relations in America. Stevenson has a real gift for communicating the problems and solutions, and Stewart IMO is still one of the best at engaging in and framing these types of nuanced conversations.

The opening interview of this episode with Lindsey Owens about the topic of inflation and corporate price gouging was also a high quality, thought provoking interview in it’s own right.

This was not on Jon Stewart’s show, but on Colbert, but it was good.

Cancelled?

That’s such a shame, but good on Jon Stewart for refusing to compromise. Hope the show finds a home elsewhere.

It seems inevitable in retrospect. There’s no way Apple would be willing to ruffle feathers of the Chinese Communist Party for the sake of creative freedom of a TV show. Too many billions at stake.

That’s too bad. It was a good show IMO (though friends of mine found it skewed so seriously so often that it made for unpleasant watching). Not a great look for Apple.

Really terrible look for Apple. But not surprising to anyone paying attention to their government relations in China.