A site of satirical musings, commentary and/or rhetorical criticism of the world at large.

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Location: Southeastern, Pennsylvania, United States

Saturday, August 08, 2015

As One Circus Folds, A Sideshow Begins…

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart came to an end this week, with many pundits rightly decrying that this was the end of an era. Meanwhile, on the same night and a few hours after Stewart taped his final episode, Fox News debut their masterpiece of accidental satire, The Fox News Republican Presidential Debate.

But more about those losers later….

I remember very well when Stewart took over the reins of the show from Craig Kilborn in 1999. The takeover seemed hostile at first. At the time, Stewart’s most striking comment was that the current crop of correspondents was “history”. We were fearful at the time that our beloved Daily Show would also be history soon.

Fortunately, our fears were unfounded. Yes, God Stuff (a piece highlighting the most absurd televangelist moments of the week) limped along for awhile under Stewart, and creator Liz Winstead’s parents no longer called in their Final Jeopardy question of the day. Kilborn's jealousy took the Five Questions segment with him. (Sample question to John Cleese, “Why does British food suck?” Answer, somewhat huffily as I recall, “Because we had an empire to run.”)

The debacle of the 2000 presidential election gave the show a chance to prove its satirical chops with a segment called Indecison 2000. The events of 9/11 and our subsequent invasion into various venues in the mideast forced the show to shift its focus further away from satire of pop culture into a lampoon of the daily issues. The Stewart era settled into a nice comfortable groove from that point forward.

There was always laughter at the expense of ourselves and our views, and occasionally there were flashes of brilliant journalism. One moment that truly rose to the level of Edward R. Murrow was Stewart’s interview of a group of 9/11 first responders on the eve (12/16/2010) of a Congressional vote to extend healthcare benefits to those who had been exposed to life-threatening substances when they performed their duties that day. Up to that point, legislation was stalled in the Senate courtesy of a Republican led filibuster. Stewart’s actions shamed Congress for the stall and shamed the other media outlets for not covering the story.

The bill passed both houses five days later. The accomplishment was not too shabby for a “news program" on a comedy network that once got by on the strength of a puppet show (No, not Crank Yankers, but MST3K.)

This week, Stewart did not say goodbye, but would only say the show was pausing in its national conversation and that he himself was "going to get a drink”. Good for him, but leaving so that the satire void is filled by the amateurs at Fox News? I’m not totally comfortable with this alternative. 

And so it came to pass on Thursday night that the candidates ranking highest in the polls gathered in Cleveland under the auspices of Fox News for the first of what will most likely be an interminable number of televised debates. It was nearly a brawl on the lake when Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly (and the other candidates, for that matter) took on top seed blowhard Donald Trump. The ratings were great for Fox, which almost guarantees that America will be subjected to a long series of these events without actually making a reality series out of the political process.

Did I say accidental satire? I probably should have termed this a freak show.  After all, this is democracy in action!

The almost a catfight in Cleveland took some nasty turns. Rand Paul and New Jersey Governor in Absentia Chris Christie got into a heated exchange about warrants for possible terrorists. Trump and Kelly also nearly came to fisticuffs over his characterization of women as “fat pigs,” “dogs,” et al. Reportedly, the other eight candidates also attended, but apparently did not do anything overtly controversial to warrant them a mention on the media outlets the next morning.

And these people want us to choose the next leader of the free world from among them? And this is the world Jon Stewart left us to survive on our own???


Jon, come back! Come back, Jon!

(Thank you for reading. Seriously, Mr. Stewart, have a drink, enjoy life, but don’t make yourself a stranger.)


Blogger Raybeard said...

It's been to my immense regret that I got to watch your 'Daily Show' for just 3 or 4 years - before it was pulled from one of our more enterprising channels for having disappointing ratings. Shame - on both the TV station and the missing audience who didn't appreciate 'quality'! (It used to be broadcast here at 8.30 p.m. on the following evening). It's not been available to watch in this country through the medium of computer either, though the occasional excerpt finds its way onto YouTube. In the short time that I watched it it quickly became a requisite of my TV-watching routine and I soon became a great fan of Mr Stewart. But, of course, now that's over as it was, though who can say if the standard will or won't be maintained by those taking over? But in the five years or so since I last routinely watched it's a show whose absence from my life still leaves a considerable hole.

August 9, 2015 at 9:43 AM  
Blogger todd gunther said...

Thank you Raybeard. Unfortunately we had access to it everyday and seldom bothered to go downstairs to watch the television, Our loss! I'm curious how Stewsrts handling of The Daily Show compares to the pioneer shows of news satire in your country; That Was The Week That Was and The Frost Report. Do you remember those shows?

August 11, 2015 at 8:16 PM  

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