The Daily Show wasn't bad when Craig Kilborn hosted—it just wasn't great. The show began with what Stephen Colbert has called a "local news" feel, lacking the sharp political focus it would gain under Jon Stewart.

Producer Lizz Winstead had always wanted to push the show in an overtly political direction, but met resistance from the network. The lack of vision was particularly damaging during the "correspondant" segments. Rather than sharp, yet jokingly naive, political commentary, the early versions of these segments came off as merely mean-spirited. One early critique of the show from The New York Times was harsh, but, in our view, pretty spot on, describing the show as "bereft of an ideological or artistic center... precocious but empty."