It wasn’t too long ago that Jon Stewart was one of the most popular late night hosts on the air. Now, the 59-year-old comedian is allegedly struggling to attract viewers.
“The Problem with Jon Stewart,” debuted on AppleTV+ in September. A new Bloomberg report shows viewership trailing behind competitors on both broadcast and cable TV. It appears that Stewart seems to be losing viewers with each episode, too.
The publication shared that “The Problem’s” first episode had a mere 180,000 viewers in the first week, according to measurement firm Samba TV. Viewership then plummeted to 40,000 by the show’s fifth episode, which aired in early March. As a comparison, a March episode of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” attracted viewers in 844,000 U.S. homes, per Samba TV.
Meanwhile Apple TV+ has a different take. Entertainment Weekly reported that the show is the No. 1 unscripted series on Apple TV+, citing sources. “We are thrilled that ‘The Problem with Jon Stewart’ has resonated with viewers all over the world,” head of unscripted shows and documentaries at Apple+ Molly Thompson said. “The series has sparked complex conversations about critical issues, and we’re proud to team with Jon for season two and beyond.”
One defense of poor numbers was the changing nature of content consumption in the age of streaming. “You don’t even know how to get Apple TV, do you?” Stewart quipped in one episode. Plus, a late-night show format filled with timely jokes doesn’t work when episodes have to be filmed well in advance.
“A late-night-style show on a streaming service can’t be very topical because content based on the events of the day would seem stale,” Joe Toplyn, a former writer for “Late Show with David Letterman” and “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” told Bloomberg.
Another issue is the sporadic viewing schedule. At first, “The Problem” episodes came every two weeks. Then Stewart took a four month hiatus. Any potential loyal fans were likely concerned and frustrated trying to figure out when to expect new episodes. Stewart even made fun of himself for being flaky, saying it’s “like I’m an Etsy store of shows, knitting each one myself.”
Topics range from gun control to race relations, the stock market, and climate change. Even similarly aligned outlets have given Stewart’s show mixed reviews. An NPR critic said it, “feels like a stitched-together pastiche of items from Stewart’s old show and a few other programs he inspired,” while a Variety writer said the show, “has not been what one might expect from the grand return of a superstar.”
Some episodes are entertaining, though. While discussing racism in America, Stewart promoted the claim that white supremacy is rampant in America and claimed “racist systems” here prove “America has always prioritized white comfort over black survival,” The Daily Wire originally reported.
Two guests agreed with the comedian’s rant that pinned all America’s problems on white supremacy, but a third panelist, political commentator Andrew Sullivan, had a different take.
“Well I don’t believe that,” Sullivan said. “I think it’s possibly the most absurd hyperbole I’ve ever heard … I can tell you America in 2022 is the most multiracial, multi-cultural, tolerant, diverse melting pot that has ever existed on the planet earth.”
“And there is no other place on Earth even like it,” he continued. “That’s why 86% of our immigrants are nonwhite. Do you think that they want to come into a white supremacist country?”
He spoke of America’s “great history” and “incredible diversity” as reasons for the country being so appealing.
“I think you are not living on the planet most Americans are, which is why this kind of extremism, this anti-White extremism is losing popular support,” Sullivan said. “It’s creating a backlash.”
Stewart implied Sullivan was “racist” for making these types of statements.