"The Problem with Jon Stewart" features the iconic host of "Daily Show with Jon Stewart" in his return to television - this time in a bi-weekly series on Apple TV+ that will look at a variety of current events and issues.
The first episode dropped this week, and at one point Stewart acknowledges on camera that most people are likely to see the show in pieces, via clips that end up on YouTube. If that's so, it'll be a shame, because the show takes an extended look at the serious health issues being suffered by US veterans exposed to "burn pits" - open waste disposal sites that spew forth toxic fumes, often close to US bases.
This is all far closer to advocacy journalism than comedy or satire; Stewart is more ironic than funny, but the show is powerful - it has a solid three-act structure, with Stewart laying out the facts in the first segment, talking with victimized veterans and their loved ones in the heart-wrenching second, and then engaging in a surprisingly tough interview with current US Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough, whose inability to rise to the occasion is, to be honest, maddening. (Stewart actually has a lot of street cred here - he has been a passionate advocate for 9-11 first responders over the years, bring enormous attention to their cause when politicians have let them down.)
I'm not sure how much Stewart will be able to move the needle on Apple TV+, nor do I know if subsequent shows will live up to the promise of the first episode. I do know that he has wisely steered clear of the advocacy-with-comedy format used by people like John Oliver, Samantha bee and Trevor Noah, all of whom used "The Daily Show" as both learning experience and template.
But on the basis of one episode of "The Problem with Jon Stewart," I have no problem saying that I'm all in.
I've also been watching, on Peacock, the new TV series "The Lost Symbol," based on the book by Dan Brown. The protagonist, symbologist Robert Langdon, is played by Ashley Zukerman as. much younger man than in the novels or the movies that featured Tom Hanks.
The problem with the movies, for me, was that they adhered to the books too closely; I yearned for them to throw a curve and change the identity of the bad guy or insert an unexpected plot twist. The problem with the TV series is that it just plain boring - I read the book, I think, but I have no memory of it with which to compare the series version. But it doesn't matter … "The Lost Symbol" is just sort of inert.
Another "Lost Symbol" complaint … one of the things I really liked about the movies was the hauntingHans Zimmer theme, "Chevaliers de Sangreal," which they've decided not to use on the TV show. That's a shame…
I have a wonderful wine to recommend to you this week - the 2017 Girolamo Russo 'a Rina Etna Rosso from Sicily, which is rich and velvety. I had it with a lamb pizza that was made with spinach and feta cheese, and it was fabulous.
That's it for this week. Have a great weekend, and I'll see you Monday.
Stay safe. Be healthy.