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TV Worth Watching Is Voting Early: Best TV Series of 2008 Is "The Daily Show"
October 31, 2008  | By David Bianculli  | 1 comment


"Five more days," Jon Stewart said Thursday on Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. holding up his outstretched fingers. He was counting down to Election Day -- but it's also a countdown to the end of Stewart's astoundingly funny, incisive, important coverage of this marathon political campaign.

More than a year ago, Stewart and The Daily Show hit what may have been a series high point in its analysis of Barack Obama's entry into the presidential race. Stewart not only covered the new candidate's entry speech, but invited "senior black correspondent" Larry Wilmore to assess Obama's chances.

Wilmore's report was brilliant, suggesting, with accompanying graphics, that for every three black votes Obama gains, he scares off five white voters. Obama's support among blacks at the time, Wilmore noted, was not good -- but, he asked pointedly, "Is it bad enough to win?"

For most of the election campaign since then, I've watched The Daily Show religiously, and watched it do reports on religion. And the media. And the candidates. And, sometimes, all three topics at once.

More and more, as when Stewart shows campaign-trail or network-interview clips of Sarah Palin, all he does afterward is stare at the camera in utter disbelief. It's all he has to do.

Yet what I love most about The Daily Show is how well it's doing the job of journalistic and political accountability. It's delving into the public record of TV interviews, C-SPAN clips and campaign footage to play a never-ending, always-fascinating game of "Then and Now." Here's what the candidates, or the media analysts, are saying now, versus what they said before.

Watching the juxtapositions, you laugh -- but that's the only thing that qualifies this as comedy material. Show the same sequence on a nightly news show, and it'd be a genuine, investigative "gotcha" moment. In interviews, Stewart is sharp, too: He makes sense, he asks clear questions, and he listens. Many "professional" interviewers don't manage one out of three.


The Daily Show attacks the candidates, and those covering the candidates, with equal glee, sometimes at the same time. On Thursday's show, Stewart poked fun at Obama, pointing out that his half-hour infomercial opened with "actual footage of amber waves of grain."

Stewart also noted that the political infomercial was televised by seven different networks in prime time, and that, since Obama also was a Daily Show guest via satellite Wednesday, "the only thing Barack Obama didn't do on television last night was fight Kimbo Slice."

But Stewart also poked fun at McCain, by pointing out that while Obama was on view in his infomercial, his Republican opponent was on view on CNN's Larry King Live. Stewart had good fun with these two, suggesting that McCain's goal in appearing was "a blatant attempt to make Larry King look young." Then Stewart had great fun with that same idea, dubbing the voices of King and McCain into the mouths of old-coot balcony critics Statler and Waldorf on The Muppet Show.

daily-show-cnn-king-mccain.jpg daily-show-statler-waldorf.jpg

The sight and sound were so absurdly perfect, I laughed out loud. A lot. (I also laughed aloud at Stewart's tossaway reference to Mott the Hoople... but I'm old.)


Only five more days -- but only two more fresh shows: Monday's regular 11 p.m. ET edition, and a special live Election Night special Tuesday at 10, with Stephen Colbert as co-host. The Never-Ending Campaign is almost over -- and The Daily Show, for more than a year of stellar work, has more than earned my TV vote as Best TV Series of 2008.





Toni said:

I cast my "early vote" the same way. It amazes me that the mainstream media doesn't pick up on some of the reporting done on The Daily Show. One example: I'd say the "real" media (Stewart would love the air quotes) should ask John McCain how he can continue to insist that Sarah Palin is qualified to be President based on her experience as Mayor of Wasilla after the Daily Show correspondent interviewed the current mayor who had trouble coming up with any duties at all, but finally said that she does hold a staff meeting on Tuesdays and sign checks on Thursdays.

If you haven't seen that interview, it's worth finding it on the web. It's hilarious and informative (just like the rest of The Daily Show). (One of my favorite moments of the year, it was Rob Riggle who did the interview. It astounded me, too. -- David B.)

Comment posted on October 31, 2008 11:12 AM

Davey said:

I couldn't agree more. Stewart doesn't hit a home run every time, but his percentage is remarkable for a, um, daily show. Letterman and Leno should only hope to do as well.

For all its goodness, though, the show does cause one area of continuing irritation: Its very existence keeps reraising the question of why a comedy show is almost the only decent journalism on TV, and why the TV "journalists" have no been replaced with someone who can do the job as well as Stewart.

Comment posted on October 31, 2008 12:05 PM

Chris Collins said:

The sad bit for our country is that Jon Stewart will probably be rolling out to cover the 2012 campaign, in what? six months after the new president takes office. (Say it ain't so, Joe the Plumber! -- David B.)

Comment posted on October 31, 2008 1:59 PM

Greg Kibitz said:


Comment posted on November 8, 2008 11:59 AM
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Even though they lost the Emmy to The Cobert Report, I still think The Daily Show is a great news show (even if it is "fake")! Not only do they catch politicians (and others) with their pants down, they also break issues down and make them easier to understand. David B. any plans to do an updated version of this article for 2013?
Oct 1, 2013   |  Reply
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