The Problem With ‘The Problem With Jon Stewart’

John Jurgensen, writing for The Wall Street Journal (News+):

Now he’s attempting to re-engage with a show that offers fewer jokes and a more earnest agenda. With his new biweekly series, “The Problem With Jon Stewart,” his first challenge is getting people to notice it at all. Apple TV+ is decidedly more plush but less entrenched than basic cable.

Fans will find aspects of “The Problem With Jon Stewart” familiar. In front of an audience, he sits at a table for an opening monologue (now wearing a T-shirt and bomber jacket instead of a suit and tie). He twirls his pen, pauses for deadpan stares into the camera, stifles giggles behind his fist and makes self-deprecating cracks like, “I am what’s left of Jon Stewart.”

Breaking from his previous format, the show includes unscripted segments in the show’s writers’ room, where Mr. Stewart and his staff banter over each episode’s topic (expanded on in a weekly companion podcast). A separate panel discussion captures the show’s sober tone.

I watched the first episode and was bored to tears. I certainly sympathize with the plight of U.S. veterans who’ve been gravely harmed by the burning of toxic waste, but the show itself felt like a droll hour-long lecture — not a good sign when the show was in fact only 40 minutes long. Strong “When is this going to be over?” vibes. It was like being stuck back in school.

I’m not saying Stewart can or should only do comedy. I like serious issue-based shows, too, but the good ones, like 60 Minutes, move along at a fast clip. John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight devotes itself to the most serious issues in the world today, but the show is entertaining, fast-paced, and funny as hell. It moves. The premiere of The Problem With Jon Stewart can only be described as “plodding”. I’ll give it another shot this week, but one more like last week’s and I’m out.

Monday, 4 October 2021