Chad White, Likes John Oliver and Granola, Dislikes Politics and Small Children
HBO’s new series Last Week Tonight is not another Daily Show.
Yes it stars one of its previous anchors. Yes it is a show about news. And yes it has the one desk set up with the host looking into the camera, facing the audience and pictures appearing on the left side of the screen. But it is so much more than that.
The first thing I noticed about the new show is that it had that familiar Daily Show feel. By all means, it has to use that format to draw in some of its predecessor’s viewers. Once it gets them in there, it locks the audience in with host John Oliver’s charming accent. Really. I feel so warm and safe while with him. I digress.
Oliver feels right at home in HBO’s new show. He is able to say things that he would not be able to say on regular cable TV, giving him seemingly limitless freedom. If he writes a joke about a naked Pope Benedict strutting around the Vatican, he can show an old man’s flaccid dong flopping about. I don’t know why he would do that but he’s got the option.
Last Week Tonight uses an all-white aesthetic when it shows its media examples. That makes it feel shiny and new and just plain fresh. Oliver sits in front of a city backdrop (probably New York) that is lighted very well inside of the HBO studio. He introduces jokes with ease as the audience claps and cheers along with him. But that is one of the show’s main problems.
I’ve always hated to watch Daily Show or Colbert Report because of the copious amount of applause breaks. Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert may love this time but I am not fond of it. It takes away from the show and pads time. But otherwise the show is fine.
Oliver’s jokes are spot on (British humor!) but what separates him from The Daily Show are his smaller news segments. In the first episode alone, there were over four with Oliver leading three of them and an omniscient, almost PBS-esque, narrator who ran a story about NFL cheerleaders.
With its similarities to The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight is already standing among a crowded group. A big problem the show must deal with is its inability to stand out. That is, I’ve been comparing it the entire time to two other shows and it has yet to grab my attention. But that is one tiny little gripe. Unlike those shows, this one has been allotted more freedom. As long as Oliver can keep the jokes funny and the quality high, we should have nothing to worry about. Plus this show is only once a week so we’ll get the top tier jokes. At least I hope.