Jon Stewart Leaves Apple TV After Refusing to Toe Company Line on A.I. and China
After landing Jon Stewart’s biggest post-Daily Show project, The Problem with Jon Stewart, Apple has lost the political comedy star after just two seasons and 20 episodes. Perhaps The Problem could return with alternative personnel once Foxconn perfects their StewartBot A.I. model.
Just a couple weeks before The Problem with Jon Stewart was scheduled to start shooting its third season, the Daily Show legend abruptly parted ways with Apple TV as insiders cite differences in opinion between Stewart and the tech giant regarding topics related to China and artificial intelligence. The New York Times reports that Stewart spoke to his staffers yesterday about the growing divide between his own editorial voice and the guarded interests of the show’s parent company in relation to the two issues that Stewart planned to explore in the third season. Stewart further suggested that the political friction between them would only increase as the 2024 presidential election grows closer, and that, if The Problem could not continue as an independent voice on important topics, it would have to end entirely.
And so, Stewart’s companion piece to his protege John Oliver’s in-depth, single-issue political comedy programming will end the way it began – quietly.
When The Problem with Jon Stewart began in September, 2021, the reaction among critics and audiences was decidedly more muted than many expected over the triumphant renaissance of one of the greatest political satirists in TV history. Instead of a Michael Jordan-esque second act that picked up where Stewart left off on The Daily Show, The Problem saw a more relaxed Stewart settle into an airy, bi-monthly format centered around individual issues and interviews with those at the heart of them. Occasionally, Stewart shined while skewering the hypocrisy of the powerful as he once did on a nightly basis – like when he made Oklahoma State Senator Nathan Dahm squirm over uncomfortable questions about his actions in loosening gun restrictions – but the overall product felt less trenchant and less urgent than Stewart’s previous iterations, especially when compared to the work of his contemporaries who owe so much to him.
Of course, the looming specter of The Problem's streaming patrons undoubtedly affected the tenacity of a show built upon its political and social convictions – after all, it’s hard for an iconoclast like Stewart to interrogate the selfishness and carelessness of the powerful without eventually brushing against the business interests of the most profitable company in the world. Now, unsurprisingly, Apple executives feel that their complicated relationship with the Chinese government and their exploration of artificial intelligence are larger priorities for the monolithic manufacturer than the journalistic integrity of their TV division’s answer to Last Week Tonight.
Though unexpected and unfortunate for the staffers involved, Stewart’s decision to stand by his values and end The Problem incorruptibly is, perhaps, the best case scenario for the show. The world of political satire, which Stewart himself had more part in building than anyone, has evolved past the kind of show that he had at Apple TV, and it’s hard for him to hold the recklessly influential accountable when they’re the ones signing his paychecks.