Jon Stewart is back on TV with more control, more freedom and more gray hair. His new Apple TV + show, Problem with Jon Stewart, debuts on Thursday and promises to address the difficult issues facing the world.
But has America missed the main smart face since his departure Daily show in 2015? Is there still room for Stewart’s left (fiery) brand of comedy in the modern media environment? Can TV really exercise any more power over public opinion? Join Apple TV + every week to find out.
Problem with Jon Stewart review
Stewart, a longtime and most popular host Daily show, returns with a magazine-style show. He begins each episode by introducing the topic, then explores and interviews people to give a more complete understanding of the problem.
In the first week, he talks about the shameful treatment of veterans of the Iraq war. (Which is ironic, considering that Apple TV + just introduced the doctor about how heroic the Bush administration was on September 11.) He talks about civil liberties in the second week, and so on. And so on.
Stewart still does a lot of what he did Daily show. He publishes clips to point out the hypocrisy of most of the people in charge of a particular branch of government or members of the press who spin their politicians ’jobs from week to week. But he also goes deeper in the new Apple TV + show.
The episode about defense affairs obviously touched his heart. Stewart actually testified before Congress to try to get money to help the sick and first responders on Sept. 11. He saw first hand what it looks like when the government turns its back on people who have done work “for the people” in times of need.
Stewart talks to people whose lives have been irrevocably ruined by this or that policy, putting his face to injustice in a frightening and condemning way. It’s like Real Time with Bill Maher with reverse polarity, with empathy and horror instead of complacency and reverse white supremacy.
I’m not happy about that either
For many people during the years of George W. Bush, Stewart served as a kind of medicine. Once a day, you would watch him rummage through the rubble of cable embarrassment and politicians lying. Then he would try to leave you with some functional illusion of truth and reason.
Daily show it didn’t fix anything, but it made many people feel better about the sea world made by an uncontrolled conservative establishment that got healthy help from the press. Stewart famously called out like Judith Miller and Tucker Carlson when everyone else was content allowing them to lie, tease, and whine every night about the state of the world.
The problem was that there was no check and balance on Stewart himself. It has become a brand. His own power was inflated to the point that people could talk about the things they saw Daily show and use that as proof that they make a difference in the real world.
How to make a real difference
I know this sounds like an extensive generalization, but I have my own anecdotal evidence of it. I also look no further than the discouraging 2010 trick known as Rally to Restone Sanity and / or Fear, led by Stewart and his old man Daily Show colleague Stephen Colbert. Designed to bring people back to themselves after the Bush years, it was conceived as a parody of similar rallies organized by media spies like Glenn Beck. But it is not that anything was achieved with the rally.
Obama’s years have lulled many people into complacency. The real work seemed to be being done on your behalf. However, a quick look at all the terrible things done under the Obama administration proves that perhaps just laughing at the countless lies and flaws of Shep Smith and Vuk Blitzer of the world was not enough in an attempt to keep the world from falling to pieces.
Admittedly, Stewart was not obligated to do more radical work on re-stabilizing American life. But given how huge a synagogue he became for “resistance” during the crisis of democracy, it was a bit shocking what form of his practice he often had.
All of this says it’s weird to bring Stewart back. His face, which I saw so much during high school that he could have been both my civics teacher (and to be honest, he looked kind of like my civics teacher … and my favorite English teacher, on second thought – yelling at Scott Eckstein and Peter Ammirati), I used to not see anymore.
Seeing Stewart tell jokes again (and jokes about Jake Paul and Chris Pratt, just to make things even weirder) is like you’re back in school. And yes … that’s kind of cool. But as much as I still listen to the occasional song My Chemical Romance, I don’t know if I have to look back on it everything.
Having said that, Problem with Jon Stewart his heart seems to be in the right place. And these questions to addressing required. Stewart has long retired from public life (all of Trump’s years, which was probably the best). It is now clear that he was brought back only by an endless sense of anger at the countless injustices the government had constantly committed after the war on terror (to which he became the de facto opposition).
Problem with Jon Stewart: Space to grow
The new Apple TV + show fails minute by minute. (The writing staff is in more and more pain, but so is John Oliver. Well, I don’t think there’s anything to worry about even if all the jokes don’t come.) But things like that don’t have a lot of downsides, provided Stewart’s response is more measurable than last time . And that is all but guaranteed.
I will be extremely curious to see if Problem with Jon Stewart it catches on – if the combined nostalgia for Stewart and / or the need to unpack problems on the big network will make him the TV he once was. Other Daily Show Scholars like Michelle Wolf, Larry Wilmore, Wyatt Cenac, Hasan Minhaj and Jordan Klepper all tried it themselves Daily show-like speech shows after their departure, but each failed to collect the following and the ratings needed to survive.
Stewart was bigger than all of them at the height of his powers. We’ll see if he can break the curse of his show.
Watch Problem with Jon Stewart on Apple TV +
The first two episodes of the series Problem with Jon Stewart premieres Sept. 30 on Apple TV +. New episodes arrive on Friday.
Rated: Not rated yet
Look at: Apple TV +
Scout Tafoya is a film and TV critic, director and creator of a long series of video essays The Unloved for RogerEbert.com. He wrote for The Village Voice, Movie Review, The Los Angeles Review of Books i Nylon Magazine. He is the director of 25 feature films and the author of more than 300 video essays that can be found at Patreon.com/honorszombie.
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