I’ve been working in television my entire adult life, which surprisingly makes me completely unable to follow a single show on TV when it premieres. I start shows when they’re three to six seasons in, binge the crap out of them, and become a huge fan. Then, inevitably, I drop out of them when I’m all caught up and they go to a live schedule. I’ve never seen “Game of Thrones,” I barely finished “Breaking Bad” in time for the finale, I didn’t watch “Mad Men” until last season, and the only episode I watched of the final season of “How I Met Your Mother” was the last episode. I’ve been told I’m better off for not watching the final season of “HIMYM,” but that’s not the point.
Every now and then, something comes along that piques my interest to the point where I think everyone should watch it. Well, everyone who likes good, quality television–Kardashian fans to the back. I’m talking about “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver.”
I’m sure you remember John Oliver from his tenure as senior British correspondent on “The Daily Show,” his standup, recurring minor role on “Community,” and so on. As I’m sure you also remember, he guest-hosted “The Daily Show” last summer while regular host Jon Stewart took off to direct a movie. Reviews were initially mixed, saying Oliver was raw and unpolished as a host, but he eventually won over critics and impressed the right people to the point where people said he should take over “The Daily Show” once Stewart leaves. CBS allegedly approached Oliver to replace Craig Ferguson at 12:30 p.m., but he eventually landed a half-hour, weekly show at HBO, which you should absolutely watch every week.
At first glance, you’ll notice it’s very similar to “The Daily Show” from the desk to the background, and even the way Oliver drums his hands on the desk before the show starts. Once the show begins, it becomes abundantly clear that this show is its own animal, something we’ve never really seen before. For 30 minutes straight (no commercial breaks) John Oliver lampoons the biggest news stories of the week and delivers a witty, honest viewpoint on the biggest issues of the day.
On last night’s show, he weighed in on the issue of the death penalty, which has come up in the news recently. And he discussed it for 12 MINUTES STRAIGHT. On his second episode. He even addressed how insane that was: “I know what you’re thinking. ‘You’re not gonna really do a comic take on the death penalty, right? It’s your second episode. I haven’t even decided if I like this show yet.’ ”
But he did so, and then he rewarded viewers who stuck with him by showing a video of tiny hamsters eating tiny burritos. Comedic or not, what other shows or networks would discuss the death penalty for 12 minutes straight? Not even most politically-themed news shows would touch that with a 10-foot pole, but here’s this slightly-awkward, goofy looking British comedian doing a comedic bent on one of the single most controversial topics in this country. No matter what your thoughts on the particular issue are, you’ve got to hand it to the guy for doing his best to break the mold. In a late night TV landscape filled with copycats, imitators, and whatever you call “Chelsea Lately,” John Oliver might be the freshest, most unique voice we have. It’s only episode two, so he’s pretty much got the creative freedom to do whatever the hell he wants because it’s HBO. I couldn’t be more excited to see where Oliver goes from here.
Do yourself a favor. Watch “Game of Thrones.” You know you were going to anyway. Then, check out the brilliance that is the new show “Silicon Valley,” along with the third season of “Veep.” After that, stick around for “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver.” You might learn a thing or two, and you’ll definitely have more than your fair share of belly laughs.