The problem with “The Trouble With Jon Stewart” is that it’s not more widely available.

The problem with Jon Stewartreached supreme viral status for the first time this fall, thanks to Republican Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge’s inability to resist a series of very basic questions.

Stewart visited the state official’s office, sitting down with her on her own turf, to ask her to explain the logic behind the adoption in 2021 of the law “Saving adolescents from experimentation” (HB 1570)which prohibits doctors from providing puberty blockers or performing hormone therapy.

Their conversation largely consisted of Stewart’s attempt to wrest an honest answer from Rutledge on a single point: “Why would the State of Arkansas step in to override parents, doctors, psychiatrists, endocrinologists who have developed guidelines, why would you want to overrule these guidelines?”

The host was very specific about the professionals he was referring to, citing the American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, Endocrine Society, and American Association of Psychiatrists, all organizations that recommend a certain set of Guidelines for Children Expressing Gender Dysphoria. Rutledge responded by saying that for every one of these doctors and experts, “there’s an expert who says, we don’t need to allow children to take these drugs.”

“But you know that’s not true,” Stewart retorts. “You know it’s not ‘for everyone, there’s one’.

The full interview was approximately 16 minutes long, the longest segment of the second-season premiere, “The War Over Gender,” and garnered widespread praise. Many media analysts have observed that this is the type of probing interview professional journalists should conduct with elected officials. But that’s nothing new for Stewart, the 2022 Mark Twain Comedy Prize winner and a man who, at the height of his tenure on “The Daily Show”reminded people that he’s a comedian, not Edward R. Murrow.

Breaking down the myriad failures of information being broadcast is Stewart’s daily bread.

That said, if there is one episode equivalent to a whetstone against which Stewart honed his second season approach, it may be the penultimate episode of the first season on, yes, the media. Breaking down the myriad failures of broadcast information is Stewart’s daily bread, a tradition picked up and refined by “Daily Show” staffers who went on to run their own shows, including John Olivier, Stephane Colbert, Samantha Bee, Hassan Minhaj, Larry Wilmore and Wyatt Cenac. (Out of this group, only Oliver and Colbert still have shows.)

The “Media” episode takes a slightly different approach than usual, in that instead of just lamenting the TV newsroom’s tendency to take great journalism and smother it in unnecessary fearmongering garbage designed to be confusing, torrential and addictive, it digs into why it is.

Jon Stewart in “The Trouble With Jon Stewart” (Apple TV+)

And when no president or news network executive agrees to speak with Stewart, he instead turns to Robert Iger, the former CEO of The Walt Disney Company, business owner of ABC and ABC News. Together, they confirm what people who watch the news with a critical eye already know, that the rise of right-wing media has managed to confuse information and opinion, reduce public trust in news media and journalists.

Iger tells Stewart that the late Roger Ailes, the Fox executive who shaped the network into the hate machine it is today, understood there was a business to being biased. “But then what we also saw was that other news outlets then pivoted in another direction to counteract what he was doing,” Iger adds. “To me, that was a huge mistake. It was at the expense of credibility, at the expense of accuracy, and I would say at the expense of accountability.”

At that, Stewart wonders aloud if there’s money to be made by presenting the news in a way that isn’t so relentlessly hyperbolic. Iger’s response is depressingly realistic: “I just don’t know how practical it is,” Iger says, explaining that it’s not just a question of financial viability. “I’m much more interested in whether it would really make a difference in the world.”

Stewart seems determined to test that interest — whenever possible when hosting a public affairs-focused interview show on a small streaming service.

My first review of “The Trouble with Jon Stewart” made a crack at resisting the easy and cute title, but in this case it’s hard to avoid because the problem with this show is its relatively limited availability. Now that Stewart’s interview mojo is back online, the main concern should be getting more people to see the useful work he does, which should inspire other interviewers to tighten up their techniques and skills. standards.

A recent example with a direct link to the 2022 midterm elections is Stewart’s interview with Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich in the October 28 episode “Midterms: This Is What Democracy Looks Like? Stewart points out that Brnovich’s Election Integrity Unit, which official statements say “brought a lot to the ground” — lends credence to conspiracy theories claiming Arizona’s election results are fraudulent.

“When you get him ‘on the ground,’ are you going to come out and say ‘Donald J. Trump is wrong. Was the Arizona election fair, not stolen and not fraudulent? “Stewart asks. Again, it’s a simple question.

Now that Stewart’s interview mojo is back online, the main concern should be getting more people to see the useful work he does.

Brnovich extends the rotation with “I’ve always been a straight shooter.” Eventually he comes out and says, “Donald Trump lost Arizona. Period. I’ve been saying that from the very beginning.” He quickly adds, “we still have active investigations going on, but people can draw their own conclusions—”

Stewart cuts it off. “No. People can’t come to their own conclusions. That’s the purpose of the law. The law is that you have facts and you have fiction. The fact is that the elections in Arizona were handled well , not fraudulent and not stolen from Donald Trump even according to your investigations Why is it so hard to say yes to this?

With that, Brnovich continues talking in circles, and a smiling Stewart simply says, “That blows my mind.”

At Stewart’s points, Brnovich continued by Steve Bannon show and bray, “We all know what happened.”

It looks like the GA is determined to play both sides. But if you were to watch his interview with Scott Pelley on the Oct. 30 episode of “60 Minutes,” you’d get the impression that Brnovich was rock solid in his position that no cheating happened. Brnovich’s appearance on Bannon’s show is not mentioned.

“It’s just bullshit,” Stewart told Brnovich. “And you know that’s all bullshit,” adding that the real threat to American democracy is the alarming number of people who don’t believe the repeatedly verified results of the 2020 presidential election.

The problem with Jon StewartJon Stewart, Teresa de Graaf, Virginia Chau, Esq. and Adrian Fontes in “The Problem With Jon Stewart” season 2 episode “Elections” (Apple TV+)

The second half of “The Trouble With Jon Stewart” Season 1 aired in March of this year and is an improvement on the lackluster but well-meaning opener of four that premiered in late 2021.

But the second season, which launched in October, is even leaner and sharper. Gone are the pieces from the writers’ room, which humanized but added to the torpor. Instead, “The Problem” presses its confrontations with elected officials more forcefully than other investigators would allow to spew totally false nonsense without confronting them about it.

Better yet, Stewart uses his table to give people who aren’t typically heard in political conversations the chance to speak up without being interrupted by louder voices who aren’t interested in bona fide arguments.


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Earlier in “The War Over Gender,” Stewart hosted a panel discussion that included Keisha Bell and Debi Jackson, parents of transgender children, alongside ACLU Deputy Director for Transgender Justice Chase Strangio and Dr. Joshua Safer , executive director of the Mount Sinai Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery.

Bell and Jackson vehemently disagree with descriptions of “woke” parents blinded by political correctness, for example. Strangio and Safer refute claims that gender-affirming treatment is unsafe or abusive.

It takes a similar approach in the “Midterms” installment, allowing two people who volunteer to help organize an election to share their perspective, letting people know about the threats they’ve faced. Instead of viewing the problem through a lens of false equivalence, Stewart gives a face and a voice to those most intimately affected by unnecessarily punitive policies and a dangerous conspiracy theory.

These are vital and substantial conversations that should have a wider reach. But perhaps the best we can hope for is that journalists with larger audiences might be inspired by what Stewart is doing.

“I saw the impact that a news outlet had on his deterioration,” he told Iger. “Somebody has to produce better quality fodder.” Again, and on a much smaller stage, the task falls to him.

New episodes of “The Trouble With Jon Stewart” air Fridays on Apple TV+.

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