Just because we're glued to our TV sets as never before doesn't mean we've forgotten what we know about TV news. To wit: its relentlessness, its blow-dried ridiculousness, its stultifying conventions, its schizo addictions to violent conflict and treacle. TV is exasperating -- even when we depend on it the most. Which is why Jon Stewart's Daily Show is as essential now, in this age of the "credible, nonspecific threat" as it was when Monica and Gary ruled the air. Stewart looks like an anchor and even talks like an anchor. In a way, his fluid tonal shifts bring to mind Johnny Carson (back to the talk-show future), and the show, on Comedy Central, is built on the same raw material as the broadcasts it parodies. You can almost rely on it for your news (not that you would, but you could). The difference (well, other than the fact that he's funny) is that the show makes the radical assumption that his viewers are capable of thinking for themselves. There's nothing funny whatsoever about this war, or about what's happened to this city and this country. But that doesn't mean we all have to comport ourselves like John Ashcroft. The age of irony (yes, Graydon) may be over; the age of Jon Stewart definitely isn't. Simply put: If we don't give this award to the host of The Daily Show (say this with the slightest tinge of playful, parodied self-importance), the terrorists have won.