On Sunday night, HBO debuted its new weekly news comedy program in “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.” Oliver proved once again that he can drive this Daily Show-esque ship all by himself.
In the summer of 2013, John Oliver took over as host of The Daily Show while Jon Stewart was overseas filming a documentary. Some were skeptical whether Oliver could keep the Comedy Central institution afloat during Stewart’s hiatus. But, Oliver took all doubters and turned them into believers, when he not only did a killer job, secured his own weekly half-hour HBO program.
So, what is different between The Daily Show and Last Week Tonight? Nothing, and it’s brilliant. HBO and Oliver took the idiom of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” to heart in putting together the new show. The first 20 minutes were spent with Oliver behind the desk, tearing the ridiculous news items of the week a proverbial new one. He took to task unrepentant racists, the latest news out of the Vatican, Oregon healthcare, the elections in India and the problem with Pomegranate and food labels. The quality of all of the segments were outstanding, showing that as good as The Daily Show is, if you got a week to prepare a single episode, instead of filming four episodes in a week, you can find all of the right comedic avenues to explore on chosen topics. Because it was on HBO too, the premium channel was able to make the show look so clean, almost too perfect.
The most refreshing part of the episode is how the show approached the interview portion of the program. In the third act (acts were split by pre-taped segments including John McCain using the same lame joke six times on six different programs, and a knock on NFL not paying cheerleaders minimum wage) Oliver went with a taped interview. When Oliver was on The Daily Show, his pre-tape segments from the field, where he would interview people while holding a satirical edge that even the interviewee almost never seemed to get the get, were the best. Oliver brought that style to Last Week Tonight, interviewing former head of the NSA, General Keith Alexander.
“Last Week Tonight” also drew in 1.1 million viewers in its 11 PM debut, off of an extremely strong set of lead-in programs. With Game of Thrones at 9 PM, Silicon Valley at 10 PM and Veep at 10:30, HBO is the place to be on Sunday evenings. The Oliver vehicle’s 1.1 million viewers on the initial airing was a 51% increase over the 11 PM timeslot’s usual programming.
HBO has hit a home run in “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,” bringing satirical news to the premium channel. With the comedies that air before it, Sunday night got just got even better on HBO.
Check out the full episode below (warning: NSFW, but certainly tame for HBO, language)