Can Jon Stewart Give Apple TV+ the First Major Hit Talk Show of the Streaming Era?


In Jon Stewart’s return to television after six years, he devotes 40 minutes to veterans and the effects of the military burning toxic waste. Then he closes the show with a joke about the streaming service presenting it,

Apple

TV+.

“Thank you for watching,” he says, “but my guess is you didn’t. You’re probably just going to look at aggregated clips of it somewhere, on YouTube, where you pirate ‘Ted Lasso.’ You don’t even know how to get Apple TV, do you?”

Mr. Stewart, a pioneer of satire posing as news, is coming back to a much different media landscape than the one he often skewered during his 16 years hosting “The Daily Show.” Comedy has gotten trickier with an American audience that grew more angry and divided during Mr. Stewart’s absence.

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. Comedy Central, Mr. Stewart’s old home, still has the advantage of a built-in audience for “The Daily Show,” hosted by Mr. Stewart’s successor, Trevor Noah.

Starting this week, episodes of “The Problem With Jon Stewart” will appear on Apple TV+ every other Thursday around midnight—not as a nod to late-night tradition, but because that is the time when streamers typically drop new content.

Streaming TV companies have succeeded in recruiting other talk TV giants in the second or third acts of their careers, including

Oprah Winfrey

and David Letterman, who release long-form interviews at leisurely intervals on Apple TV+ and

Netflix,

respectively. NBCUniversal bet on younger talent with “The Amber Ruffin Show,” recently renewing her for a second season on its streaming site, Peacock.

Despite the streamers’ takeover of most TV genres, from prestige dramas to trashy reality shows, they haven’t fully cracked the format of topical talk and comedy…

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