Tuesday, September 8, 2015
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
Well, here it is. I said that one of the great amenities coming for the last year of the blog would be three more series finale recaps (which have become a staple for ending television)! And here is the first one. It's time for me to bid farewell to The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Spoilers ahead!
Here's my moment of zen.
The late night television landscape has been enduring a major upheaval for some time now. Ever since NBC tapped Jimmy Fallon to take over for Jay Leno on The Tonight Show, dominos have continued to fall. Seth Meyers replaced Fallon on Late Night, David Letterman announced he would retire from The Late Show and when Stephen Colbert, who brought The Colbert Report to an end this past December, was slated to replace Letterman, Craig Ferguson left The Late Late Show only to become the predecessor for James Corden. Additionally, Reggie Watts decided to move on from Comedy Bang! Bang!, Chelsea Handler opted to move her talk show format from E! to Netflix, and Jimmy Kimmel Live! moved to an earlier time slot in the evening.
But one constant in the world of talk shows through the death of Johnny Carson, the debacle between Leno and Conan O’Brien, and the ceaselessly spinning wheels of change in years more recent has been Jon Stewart.
Stewart succeeded Craig Kilborn on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show in 1999 after Kilborn left for a spot on CBS and, despite some initial skepticism, he quickly became the face of satire for the millennial generation with one in ten adults aged eighteen to twenty-nine cited Stewart as the most-trusted source of news. What became more clear than anything else over the course of Stewart’s sixteen-year run behind the “fake news desk” was his commitment and devotion to cutting through the prevalence of nonsense that was consuming media outlets, print and screen alike. After taking a twelve-week hiatus in 2014 to direct the film, Rosewater, speculation that Stewart was not long for Comedy Central gained traction and just when it seemed the new era of late night talk shows would begin and the constant reshuffling would conclude, Stewart cut another tie on television’s weathered safety net. On the tenth of February of this year, Stewart announced that he would be leaving The Daily Show, explaining that his program did not deserve even a “slightly restless host.”
Director Jay Duplass best put the thoughts of a grieving nation into words in a tweet he sent that read, “What will we do without you, oh captain, our captain?” Over the next six months, a cavalcade of celebrities and influential figures gave their best attempts to convince Stewart to stay, including President Barack Obama who jokingly contemplated issuing an executive order to accomplish the task.
Regardless of the wishes of others, Stewart’s plan moved forward and his last episode aired on the sixth of August in 2015. The two messages that dominated the show were those that set Stewart apart from the satirical world: his aforementioned passion in making light of the truth in all corners of the unjust world and the influence Stewart had on each one who passed through his offices.
A cavalcade of Daily Show correspondents returned to bid their boss, in this case a launching pad for fame, a proper farewell, including Steve Carell, Rob Corddry, Josh Gad, Olivia Munn, and Ed Helms. The finale would not have felt right, though, were it not for the audience’s irresistible desire to chant “Stephen! Stephen!” as their beloved Colbert appeared to inform Stewart face-to-face how grateful everyone was for what the veteran host had done over the years. Colbert’s message of Stewart’s generosity was exemplified when the latter devoted a minor scene in the episode to his successor, Trevor Noah, and a major portion of his last moments on the show to illuminating those who helped make it what it was.
One last speech before Bruce Springsteen took the stage to perform “Land of Hope and Dreams” marked the end of the Jon Stewart era at Comedy Central and it could not have better embodied what The Daily Show was about and what Stewart’s purpose was in devoting sixteen years of his life to it, day in and day out. He warned his viewers about becoming susceptible to the deception they may hear or read from the news and the media. It was Stewart who had ripped apart every thread of wool that covered his audience’s eyes, but now that he was departing, he had to make sure we knew what to do without him. Though, it is a shame that we have to do anything without him, at all. The audience had faith in The Daily Show and they still have faith in Stewart. And just as Springsteen’s final line in his farewell anthem conveyed, our faith will be rewarded.