What would it look like if Jon Stewart hosted a straight forward news program without the satire edge? According to a NY Magazine article, NBC really wanted to find out. The network reportedly had negotiations with the “Daily Show” host to recruit him to take over their Sunday morning news program, “Meet the Press.”
For Stewart fans who are unaware, “Meet the Press” is a one hour news interview show previously hosted by NBC news correspondent David Gregory. When political heavyweights need an hour to push their side of a breaking story or answer for some disaster, “Meet the Press” is one of the requisite television stops. Gregory left the show in August of this year when NBC failed to see the show head in the direction it wanted to — aka it wasn’t pulling in the ratings they were hoping for.
What could push “Meet the Press” to the top of its Sunday morning competition that includes ABC’s “This Week” with Charlie Rose and CBS’ “Face the Nation”? A charismatic, intelligent interviewer that comes with a loyally devoted and, this is key, young following. Though arguably liberal, Stewart is no stranger to filleting President Obama and his administration when Stewart feels they haven’t been performing the jobs they were elected to do. He’s a proven debater with the political wherewithal to tackle politicians from both sides of the aisle.
The NY Magazine article also makes the valid point that since CBS managed to nab Stephen Colbert to take over for Letterman, NBC may not have been completely delusional for thinking they could bag Stewart — except the move doesn’t make sense. It seems like a great idea for NBC, but not for anyone else involved. Landing Stewart may have temporarily meant a wider demographic but inevitably “Meet the Press” would lose its core audience, and its purpose with Stewart at the helm.
Case in point: Stewart has maintained for years that he’s not a journalist, he’s a comedian. That is where he thrives, when he’s able to sit back and point fingers at politicians and mass media without the responsibility. He’s built such an ardent fan base for “The Daily Show” that he’s basically allowed to do whatever he wants.
Was NBC willing to let Stewart insert comedy sketches about White House break-ins between interviews? Would he still be allowed to rip apart mass media coverage of important issues? If he does, is the audience still watching “Meet the Press” or is it an NBC “Daily Show” hybrid? If that’s the case, what’s the point? Jon Stewart loses that oh-so-enviable young demographic when he buttons up and “Meet the Press” loses its value if it brings in gags and satire for the sake of ratings. If Stewart really wanted to spend an entire hour asking politicians questions, he already has the show and the desired audience with which to do it.
If NBC really wants to broaden its audience for “Meet the Press” it needs to look at content rather than gimmicks. Are they talking about anything that’s relevant to the young audience? Are they interviewing Congress members that are blocking financial aid legislation or job creation bills? In the shows about immigration how much attention is given to young people born in this country to parents who are here illegally, and the effect deportation has on those families rather than strictly focusing on border patrol? Are they tackling topics like gay marriage and reproductive rights — the core issues that apply to the demographic they are trying to attract?
In recent months NBC have added Andrea Mitchell and Joe Scarborough in an effort to broaden the show from its one host focal point, but both are from the NBC family and both are upperclass white people (and Mitchell is the only female). NBC wouldn’t be insane to introduce more diversity to the “Meet the Press” line-up to attract a wider audience.
The plain truth is that the desired 20-something market isn’t going to wake up that early to see middle aged white guys grill politicians over issues they don’t care about — even if it was Jon Stewart asking the questions.
“Meet the Press” airs Sunday mornings on NBC at 8 a.m. ET/PT. Jon Stewart remains on “The Daily Show” Monday thru Thursday at 11 p.m. on Comedy Central.