Jon Stewart took some time to live his idyllic life on the farm in New Jersey (where he's rehabbing pigs), but I'm sure you've heard the amazing Tuesday news: Stewart just inked a deal with HBO! But it doesn't mean he's coming back to television just yet: according to Deadline, Stewart signed a four-year production deal with HBO to produce "short form digital content" that will be available on HBO Go and HBO Now. No telling when his first project will air, but don't be too sad that Stewart won't be doing a TV show in a standard format: the digital platform is way better for Stewart anyway, who said himself that "appearing on television 22 minutes a night clearly broke me. I’m pretty sure I can produce a few minutes of content every now and again."
But you should still be excited. Apparently, Stewart is working with tech company OTOY, Inc. to create new forms of technology that will allow him to creative innovative content for HBO Now and HBO Go that will be "refreshed multiple times a day." Even though it was a great comfort to see Stewart each evening on The Daily Show, I'm excited that he will be able to make content like no one is watching, and not have to worry about being on a cable network anymore.
Think about the trajectory of another beloved former Daily Show alum: John Oliver's Last Week Tonight on HBO has some of the best reporting of any nightly or weekly news show, in which he dedicates more than 15 minutes at a time to topics like infrastructure. Stewart will be doing just about the opposite with his short-form content, but the sentiment is the same: HBO will give him the freedom to make the kind of content that he wants, even though it's unclear what kind of stuff that will be yet. Could he be, essentially, snapchatting?
I am glad that Stewart is happy that he doesn't have to put together a whole show anymore, and, hopefully, after a little while making this short-form digital content, he will be inspired to return to the standard format of a show. But I am also happy to embrace whatever Jon Stewart wants to make, and, if that means refreshable clips on an HBO streaming service that are topical and timely, that doesn't sound so bad to me.
I don't even really know what kind of potential this could unleash from Stewart, but the comedian was constrained for a long time by the television format of The Daily Show, even though he had consistently innovative segments and the show itself was a great home for his unique brand of political comedy. This digital platform could lead to an even more intimate and personable Stewart, who, I hope, will reveal a little bit of his goofier side on the streaming service.
Clearly, the plan to stay out of the spotlight just wasn't working for Jon. And though I, too, of course, want to eventually see a new show from Stewart, I will happily take this short-form digital content, whatever that may be. Think of it like text messages from Jon Stewart. Maybe we'll even get a Jon Stewart hologram. We can hope!