John Oliver has come to save TV
It’s embarrassing to admit, but occasionally, greatness will fly entirely under my radar. I was appalled to only recently learn that long-time The Daily Show correspondent John Oliver had received his own show on HBO.
Oliver joined the cast of The Daily Show in 2006. He had previously appeared in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and as a co-host of Political Animal, a sketch comedy radio show on BBC Radio 4. Now I never much cared for The Daily Show or The Colbert Report. I was in a small minority; all of my friends referred to back-to-back Stewart and Colbert as their hour of power. While I agree that what they were doing was admirable—namely political humour delivered as extreme pundit characters for parties they didn’t believe in—something about the delivery rubbed me the wrong way. During the summer of 2013, with Jon Stewart out to direct Rosewater, Oliver took over hosting duties for two months. I was now a believer in the hour of power.
After Oliver’s brief stint as host ended, the rumor mill began buzzing, saying that Oliver would succeed Stewart on The Daily Show, that he would replace Craig Ferguson on The Late Late Show, or that, the gods permitting, Oliver would host his own program. Enter HBO.
Last Week Tonight has been producing shows on HBO and YouTube since April 2014. It takes some of the best elements of its spiritual predecessors, and delivers its content in an easy to digest and delightfully British way. What sets Oliver’s show far apart from its contemporaries is the amount of research that goes into each segment. There is nothing reported on that isn’t backed up by a delightful clip or a deluge of paperwork.
But that’s not what I’m here to talk about. I’m here to talk about the profession of reportage. Last Week Tonight, much like the newspaper that you’re currently reading, is a weekly. Ask anyone who works in this time frame, and they’ll tell you that relativity is the number one issue they face. Reporting on events from the week prior, and finding relevant, entertaining, informative, and just plain different ways to do so is one of the hardest things that a journalist will have to do. The Carillon does it well. John Oliver does it like a king.
Last Week Tonight’s YouTube channel has millions of views per episode, hundreds of thousands of subscribers, and nowhere to go but up. From one weekly to another, thank you for making our job cool again.