GOP Debate Was Great TV; Stewart's Farewell Was A Yawner

The sprawling Republican debate on Fox News Channel was the clear winner on a Thursday night in August that ordinarily would have been one of the sleepiest nights of television all year 

But with 10 GOP hopefuls facing off in prime time on Fox News, and then Jon Stewart hosting his final “Daily Show” immediately thereafter, it was a night to remember.

No matter how you feel about these Republican candidates or the viewpoints of Republicans in general, this was great TV -- dramatic, entertaining, even illuminating. There were clear winners and losers, some who neither lost nor won, some who left positive impressions and others who came off terribly.

Perhaps most importantly, since he received the lion’s share of attention going into this event, how did Donald Trump do? On the face of it, he fared badly. His answers to various questions seemed to support an impression already held by many that he lacks in-depth knowledge of many complex issues. His most unattractive moment -- one that was widely commented upon in the debate’s aftermath -- came when he tangled with moderator Megyn Kelly when she questioned him about comments he’s posted on social media about women. In his answer, Trump was defiant and seemed vaguely threatening.



The thing about Trump, however, is that no matter what he says, he maintains or even gains support. So it’s premature to suggest on Friday morning that Trump “lost” the debate. For all we know, his supporters probably love him even more now.

Who came off well in the debate? Chris Christie did. So did Marco Rubio and John Kasich (especially him). Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker -- who ranked third in the popularity polls before the debate -- was unmemorable. Jeb Bush came across as competent but dull. Ted Cruz showed charisma. Rand Paul came across as angry, if not unhinged; it was a very bad showing for him. Mike Huckabee also had a bad night. Dr. Ben Carson gave the impression he is intelligent and level-headed, but he probably neither gained nor lost support as a prospective nominee (let’s face it, the odds don’t favor his nomination).

All in all, though, this was a terrific show -- an arena-sized political debate in the middle of the summer that gave millions something to talk about and share on social media. Nice work, Fox.

Meanwhile, Jon Stewart’s farewell “Daily Show” on Comedy Central played mainly to the show’s most rabid fans, those who stuck with the show over its nearly 16-year run. You had to be a “Daily Show” regular to feel the least bit thrilled by the “reunion” of “Daily Show” correspondents who appeared one by one (or in small groups of two or three) in a lengthy bit at the outset of this finale, which ran to nearly an hour in length.

Many of these correspondents became famous, of course -- including Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert, Ed Helms, Olivia Munn, Rob Riggle, Josh Gad and others. But for those who watched “The Daily Show” only intermittently over the years, this personality parade barely registered (although a cameo appearance by Stewart’s predecessor, Craig Kilborn, was a nice touch).

Then it was on to a montage of comedic farewells from other famous people -- something almost every late-night show puts together when a host leaves. These ranged from Hillary Clinton and John Kerry to Bill O’Reilly and John McCain.

Like other late-night hosts before him, Stewart paid tribute to the huge staff of “The Daily Show” who worked behind-the-scenes to produce his show. This bit was styled like the famed Copacabana scene in “Goodfellas,” when Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) takes his date, Karen (Lorraine Bracco), into the backdoor and through the kitchen of the New York nightclub as “Then He Kissed Me” by the Crystals played on the soundtrack.

“The Daily Show” used the same song and the same “single-take,” handheld camera technique to showcase every backstage staffer (including a cameo by Martin Scorsese, director of “Goodfellas”). The bit was clever at first, but then you realized you’d seen take-offs like this many times before. As the bit wore on, it just felt stale, although Stewart’s acknowledgement of his support staff was certainly appropriate and also praiseworthy.

The show ended with a performance by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. When they played “Born to Run” and the small “Daily Show” stage suddenly filled up with people dancing, the spectacle played like one of those oldies shows the PBS stations air incessantly during pledge months.

Amidst the clamor, Stewart said good night for the last time. And then he was gone. The new “Daily Show” with host Trevor Noah premieres Sept. 28.


10 comments about "GOP Debate Was Great TV; Stewart's Farewell Was A Yawner".
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  1. Nicholas Schiavone from Nicholas P. Schiavone, LLC, August 7, 2015 at 1:16 p.m.

    "GOP Debate Was Great TV;  Stewart's Farewell Was A Yawner"

    Dear Adam,

    I am sorry to read that your TV platform, your spiritual platform or your editor’s dyspepsia resulted in such a pathetic "TVBlog" assessment of last evenings (August 6, 2015) Television fare.  The "Debate" was not "Great" but it was MUST SEE TV.  And "Stewarts's Farewell" was not a "Yawner" but the essence EXTREMEL ENGAGING TV for viewers capable of soulful reflections, instead of just knee-jerk reactions.

    You ought to re-read Ecclesiastes for the parts you missed the first time.

    Ecclesiastes 3:1

    "To Everything There is a Season

    1 All things have their season, and in their times all things pass under heaven.

    A time to react, and a time to reflect.

    A time for Must See TV, and a time for Must Feel TV.

    A time for swollen egos, and a time for humility.

    A time for gratification, and a time for gratitude.

    A time for Giddy GOP Debates, and a time for Sincere Farewells to The Daily Show.

    TV and Bible lessons continued immediately in next post ...

  2. Nicholas Schiavone from Nicholas P. Schiavone, LLC, August 7, 2015 at 1:25 p.m.

    "GOP Debate Was Great TV;  Stewart's Farewell Was A Yawner"

    Ecclesiastes 3:1 (continued)

    "To Everything There is a Season

    1 All things have their season, and in their times all things pass under heaven.

    2 A time to be born and a time to die.  A time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted.

    3 A time to kill, and a time to heal.  A time to destroy, and a time to build.

    4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh.  A time to mourn, and a time to dance.

    5 A time to scatter stones, and a time to gather.  A time to embrace, and a time to be far from embraces.

    6 A time to get, and a time to lose.  A time to keep, and a time to cast away.

    7 A time to rend, and a time to sew.  A time to keep silence, and a time to speak.

    8 A time of love, and a time of hatred.  A time of war, and a time of peace."

    "Good Night, and Good Luck"  "Bye now, and God Loves You." 

    (Now Edward R. Murrow & Bishop Sheen were "Great" TV.)

  3. Nicholas Schiavone from Nicholas P. Schiavone, LLC, August 7, 2015 at 3:45 p.m.


    Jon Stewart’s ‘Daily Show’ Finale is Second Most-Viewed Episode In Show’s History


    Jon Stewart’s farewell helped his “Daily Show” capture some of the best viewership in the series’ history, with approximately 3.5 million viewers tuning in to see the witty host bid adieu ...

  4. Alvin Silk from Harvard Business School, August 8, 2015 at 2:43 p.m.

    The Repub;ican (nonz)Debate as "great tv/."  By what standard pf "greatness?"
    It's time re-redead New  ton Minoow's commentary re "television" as "avast wasteland."

  5. James Coakley from Coakley, August 8, 2015 at 5:16 p.m.


    Had you ever watched the "Daily Show" before the finale? Doesn't read that way. The notion that the finale playing to its fans is a critical fault of the program is to miss the point that Jon wanted to say goodbye and salute his FANS.

    You don't appear to have been one of them and we fans don't really care.

  6. Nicholas Schiavone from Nicholas P. Schiavone, LLC, August 9, 2015 at 9:20 p.m.

    Dear Alvin,
    I respect your scholarship and look forward to discussing the matter during my next contribution to HBS through your esteemed associate, Professor Stephen Greyser.  
    The GOP Debate Nielsen Ratings makes my point no matter the political ideology. 
    TV is not an absolute standard.  Just a business indicator.  You get that.  
    Enjoy the Summer.  
    See you soon!

  7. Nicholas Schiavone from Nicholas P. Schiavone, LLC, August 9, 2015 at 9:25 p.m.

    Dear James,
    Well expressed.
    Nicholas P. Schiavone 

    PS I await Adam's acknowledgement of your point and his act of contrition.  Unless, he pretends to be infallible, he owes all readers a errata notice.

  8. Nicholas Schiavone from Nicholas P. Schiavone, LLC, August 9, 2015 at 9:56 p.m.

    Dear Professor Silk,
    TV is only a business, despite the efforts of many good people
    to make it an ethical art form  
    Mine include.
    The article below, will help put things in perspective for all.
    It will put to rest the what constitutes the "bottom-line" for television.
    Nicholas P. Schiavone 

    PS Professor Greyser will vouch for my bona fides.  And I will not stop trying to change the status-quo.

  9. Nicholas Schiavone from Nicholas P. Schiavone, LLC, August 9, 2015 at 10:24 p.m.

    Adam...You were so wrong!

    External Image

    Jon Stewart's last night: Sweet good-bye - Media Life Magazine
    Jon Stewart was often criticized by people on the right for never challenging the assumptions of the large portion of his audience that was on the left.

  10. David Scardino from TV & Film Content Development, August 10, 2015 at 7:08 p.m.

    Nick, it's all subjective, "just one man's opinion of moonlight" (to quote Donovan--the singer not the data service). Give it and your blood pressure a rest, my man.

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