There’s a lot of TV out there, and some of it basically ended last week while I was out of the country, but I decided to stay up to midnight in another country to see the conclusion anyway.
This week, I’m covering The Daily Show With Jon Stewart.
What’s the premise?
The series started before Stewart was the host and the basic premise is the same: poke fun at current events and then the host will interview someone. Under Stewart, the series got more political and the satire much, much sharper. There’s a reason the show’s website archive does not contain anything from the Craig Kilborn era.
What’s the appeal?
While most people believe Stewart was making fun of political figures primarily–and he did that quite a bit–I would argue the true target of his satirical lens was actually the news media itself. That rumors would occasionally pop up saying some networks seriously considered hiring Stewart to anchor their legitimate evening news shows is somewhat frightening. TV as a medium is in my opinion not the best way to tell news stories in many cases outside of a quick, superficial manner, and Stewart often bemoaned how the media seemed to be gloss over things like veracity from public officials to focus on stupid, superficial things. That every correspondent had the title “senior” correspondent adds to that. And while no one watching the show would be surprised to guess how Stewart votes, he didn’t limit his shots to people he disagreed with, while being a smart and courteous interviewer to most people who aren’t Jim Cramer or Judith Miller.
Anything stand out?
The sad fact is more young Americans learned exactly how messed up our political system can be from Stewart and former correspondent Stephen Colbert than they did from real news sources. And while the comedy could often be very funny, the show wasn’t afraid to tackle the right serious issues like health benefits for 9/11 rescue workers.
During the final episode of Stewart’s run, the first segment brought back as many of the show’s former correspondents as were willing and able to appear, and it’s clear the series has been a boon to many careers. Aside from Steve Carrell being among the first returnees, once the current regulars were finished, the later the former cast member appeared in the segment, the more arguable success the person had post-Daily Show, ending of course with Colbert. Besides Carrell and Colbert, The Daily Show has been a platform that helped the careers of folks like Lewis Black, John Hodgeman, Kristen Schaal, John Oliver, Josh Gad, Ed Helms, Larry Wilmore, and Olivia Munn. How much or how little The Daily Show helped these people out may be up for debate (I had forgotten Gad’s time with the show when he appeared), but arguably Stewart’s time with the show was as good as SNL for launching careers.
I have no idea whether or not Treavor Noah is the right fit for a replacement after appearing all of twice on the show. Most of the top picks like John Oliver had already moved on, and the big name comics approached make for an interesting case of “What if?” but that’s all.
Truth be told, Stewart had off-nights. Putting on a new, funny show four nights a week is hard work, and he relied a little too heavily on goofy faces and weird vocal noises that the studio audience just ate up as time went on. He left at the right time, and still has his comedic legacy.