Non-Geek TV From The Geek Perspective: Last Week Tonight With John Oliver

Gabbing Geek What We're Watching

There’s a lot of TV out there, and some tries to entertain and inform at the same time.

This week we’re looking at HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.

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What’s the premise?

Comedian John Oliver does what so many others do, sit behind a desk and make jokes about the news.  There are a lot of those guys out there, some being better than others.

What’s the appeal?

John Oliver had subbed rather successfully for Jon Stewart when Stewart took time off from The Daily Show and displayed some real talent in a similar role.  He’s also English, so Americans automatically think he’s smart.  I’m only sort of kidding there.

Anything stand out?

The show is tailored to Oliver’s own sense of humor and delivery, plus it has the advantage of being on HBO, with a bigger budget than anything Comedy Central would dare to pay, no commercials, and swearing and jokes that can pretty much only be done on premium cable.

What makes Last Week different from other, similar shows, many of them also hosted by former Daily Show correspondents, is how Oliver takes his time to thoroughly explain generally lesser known issues, many of them issues Oliver himself probably cares greatly about (like corruption involved with the World Cup).  Many of them are not exactly the sorts of things many people are aware of.  He uses his show to educate his audience on various injustices and problems that deserve, in his and his staff’s opinion, more attention.

That’s become the show’s signature style.  While the show isn’t above covering something that has a lot of awareness, the show is just as likely to devote time to special tax districts, infrastructure issues, and how much tobacco companies are trying to legally muscle poor countries around.  With the sort of money HBO is apparently willing to spend, Oliver is using his show for a good purpose by telling people there are really big things we need to know about and maybe even do something about.

Any downsides?

As with any show featuring an opinionated host, even one who makes concessions like Oliver does, people who disagree with the man’s politics may have a hard time with a show like this.  That’s just how people everywhere are.

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