When long time correspondent John Oliver left “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” in December 2013 to have his own show on HBO, it was assumed that his show would be just like the show that he had just left. When “Last Week Tonight” premiered last April, it was a pleasant surprise. John Oliver airs his show on most Sunday nights, and at first glance, it looks a bit like “The Daily Show.” However, it is more consistently hard hitting than “The Daily Show” is on its best weeks.
Each episode begins with an excellent title sequence and then opens to John Oliver sitting at a desk with a mural of several combined cities behind him. He quickly discusses various aspects in the news that happened in the past week, and then he gets into his main topic for the night. The main topics are always big issues that the public isn’t necessarily informed about: payday loans, the conflict issues with the FCC, the police’s militarization and what it has to do with Ferguson, how companies put sugar in their food, the death penalty, the problems with institutionalism. Oliver uses humor and streamlined facts to explain all of these issues. For example, when he discussed the death penalty, he promised all who stuck around to watch that the audience would watch a You Tube video of a hamster eating a burrito. Often, he spurs his audience to action via the Internet. In the issue of the “fast lane” problem, he sent Internet trolls to the FCC’s website with the directive: “Fly, my pretties! Fly!” In these segments, Oliver manages to entertain and to inform masterfully.
There are two other recurring segments of note. “Why Is This Still A Thing” is a prerecorded segment asking the titular question about various topics (ie: “Dressing Up as Other Races,” “Columbus Day,” “Ayn Rand”). A narrator who is not John Oliver takes the audience through these topics and asks “Why Is This Still A Thing?” at the end of the segment. Another segment of note is “Smart People Who Think Good,” another often prerecorded segment where John Oliver interviews people of note in their fields (i.e. Stephen Hawking, Jane Goodall, etc.) for a comedic effect. Like the correspondents on “The Daily Show” occasionally do, he asks silly questions to garner a funny response.
John Oliver has mastered the ability to entertain and to inform as he shines in his new show.
The show airs at 11pm on Sunday nights on HBO.