An Ode to the Daily Show

I love the Daily Show. In fact, I'm going to go out on a limb and call it the single best show on television. My guess is that while a good portion of you think it's a fine show, you may not really feel that it rates as the best show. After all, there are a bunch of other quality shows out there, especially the new breed of serials that get us all incredibly involved in complex story lines that may or may not ever pan out (*coughLostcough*). That's all well and good, but the Daily Show is the best, and here's why.

1) The show is hilarious. It clearly stands in the same league as Leno or Conan (never been a Letterman fan, sorry). Judged purely on the grounds of entertainment, the show is quality. Some nights can fall a little flat, and the interviews can sometimes be uninteresting. But the quality levels is consistently pretty good and for a show that comes out four days a week, that's awesome.

2) The show is the left's response to Fox News.

Begin digression: It seems to me that the world of news is increasingly focused on pulling in viewers and less about responsibly reporting what the f*** is actually happening. This has resulted in several types of reporting. There's the heart-on-sleeve reporting, where the news is reported but interpreted by a newscaster with an explicitly stated leaning (think Anderson Cooper, Lou Dobbs, Bill O'Reilly). There's infotainment, where the news is liberally mixed with "stories" that are entertaining, designed to pull in people that normally consider newscasts to be dry and boring (see my previous post on CNN, and Fox news). And of course, there's blatant partisan hackery (see Fox News). The common thread here is that the reporting of the news is increasingly focused on being easily digestable, requiring as little viewer interpretation as possible. End digression.

Fox has managed to do this by blending trashy stories with intense partisan hackery. The trashy stories draw people in. The partisan hackery tilts them towards a particular political direction. If you doubt that they are drawing people in with trashy stories, then head on over to the Fox News website. A quick scan of their stuff shows me these immediately clickable headlines:

* Hot Bods VolleyPalooza: Miami based models battle it out in beach volleyball at Super Bowl event
* Woman: Ex sent me severed kitten head
* Stray dog rescues Ga. woman from crash
* Cops arrest Chewbacca street performer
* Rice rooting for Colts in bowl
* Some meth addicts turn to urine to get high

While a lot of the other news sites have crap on them, I'm going to state with an 85% confidence level that Fox's crap-to-quality ratio is the highest out there.

This is why the Daily show is great. It uses the same formula - mixing entertainment with news - to compete for viewers, but without getting dragged into the morally decrepit cesspool that the Fox News channel has claimed as its favored mudhole.

3) The Daily Show does something that no other show (that I know of) is willing to do - tell the god damn truth. While every other news show on the air incessantly worries about political posturing and appropriate levels of gravitas, the Daily Show consistently focuses on what it considers to be the "real" story and then juxtaposes that with the garbage that the other networks decided to actually focus on. When the other news networks deferentially played the role of Presidential fanboy, the Daily Show showed us clip after clip of the President/Vice President/Secretary of Defense/Press Secretary saying one thing, saying it again, saying it a third time, and then saying he never said it. In essence, it gets us a little closer to the truth, which I think is becoming increasingly elusive in today's world of "Fair and Balanced" reporting.

4) Jon Stewart. While every other show out there seems to have some sort of clear agenda that it's trying to sell, Stewart doesn't seem to have one at all. If anything, his job seems to be to seek and expose hypocrisy and agendas wherever they may be. Maybe I'm just internally overstressing the importance of his single-handedly dismantling "Crossfire," which he seemed to do for no reason other than that it was the right thing to do. Maybe I'm giving him too much credit for backing Stephen Colbert's White House Correspondent's dinner. But I just have a belief in that man that I wouldn't even extend to Barack Obama, were it to come down to it. And the fact that this show can restore my belief in the integrity of television personalities is what makes this show great.

I'm not going to say that him and his show don't have a clear political stance. The Daily Show clearly appeals much more to those leaning towards the left. At one point, I might have found that objectionable - maybe because it smacks of some sort of agenda or partisan hackery. But the truth of the matter is that the show trades in satire: it ridicules stupidity, pompousity and hypocrisy, wherever it may be. And the Daily Show is clearly willing to take a stab at either side of the aisle. Witness the reporting on "the First 100 hours," or Stewart's relatively merciless interview with Joe Biden. While the guy certainly isn't above tossing out soft-balls every once in a while, I trust him to report on what he thinks is right, rather than what will score a political potshot.

Last comment: The one criticism that might be leveled at the Daily Show is that it is frivolous, doesn't actually contain any real news, and is pulling American youth away from real newscasts where they might actually learn something. While I certainly wouldn't call the Daily Show a comprehensive newscast, I do think that it provides a (relatively) reasonable amount of news for just a half hour period. To back me up, check out this press release from Indiana University. In brief, a widely cited article claims that the Daily Show is as substantive a news source as regular network news, with "substantive" being defined as discussion of issues. Anyway, this post is long enough. You all can read that for yourself.

Link to press release via Arstechnica

13 comments:

  1. Anonymous said...

    Nice post.  

  2. Boyishprince said...

    Great post! I love The Daily Show too... so funny yet so frightingly thruthful at times!!

    For those interested: Loads of John Stewart ramblings & Daily Show videoclips can be found at http://www.HypedWorld.com  

  3. Loretta said...

    Good words.  

  4. arieskhan said...

    Daily Show's Asif Mandvi Joins Last Airbender...

    http://mostfamousnouns.blogspot.com/2009/03/daily-show-s-asif-mandvi-joins-last.html  

  5. formivore said...

    Hear hear.

    It's strange looking back across the Bush years. It all seems like a strange dream; to be honest W and the GOP look a lot less sinister now in the clear light of day than they did in the dark days after 2004. The invasion of Iraq, the torture memos, Terri Schiavo... was it really that bad? Perhaps those of us on the left were hyperventilating a bit, we do tend to do that... My clearest, sanest political memories of the past 8 years seem to be of Jon Stewart's Daily Show. He was, at times, the only opposition that had anything coherent to say. Remember that before the 2008 elections there was NO political opposition to speak of, even well after Bush's poll numbers had plummeted. Rather it was Stewart who became the spiritual center. He claims to be neutral and I trust his intentions but there's no denying that what happened. Now the Daily Show's critique of the Republican administration and the 2000's conservative movement, as hacks and crazies masked by the Rovian message machine, is the final word. I would even say that the tone of Obama administration, in what it is able to say, owes a debt.  

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