DAVID BIANCULLI

Founder / Editor

ERIC GOULD

Associate Editor

LINDA DONOVAN

Assistant Editor

Contributors

ALEX STRACHAN

MIKE HUGHES

KIM AKASS

MONIQUE NAZARETH

ROGER CATLIN

GARY EDGERTON

TOM BRINKMOELLER

GERALD JORDAN

NOEL HOLSTON

 
 
 
 
 
With HBO's 'Last Week Tonight,' John Oliver Marches to Beat of His Own Drumming
April 29, 2014  | By Ed Bark  | 2 comments
 

His material was mostly first-rate. John Oliver seemed to have no interest in savoring it, though.

“Welcome, welcome, welcome to whatever this is,” he said without any further ado at all on Sunday’s premiere of HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. “Let’s get started straight away.”

Which he did, while also seemingly being intent on waylaying prolonged outbreaks of laughter or applause. Oliver seemed just a bit impatient with any of that.

“No, no, no, no,” he said more than once while also laying down a little drumbeat on his desk in an effort to seemingly stay in joke-telling rhythm. An appreciative studio audience, never shown on camera, might have in turn appreciated a quick ad lib or a chance to let its collective reaction wash over the host. But Oliver wasn’t having any of that, even though the show was pre-taped and seemingly not on a super-strict schedule. This is, after all, HBO, where episodes of original fare routinely are allowed to run a few minutes past an appointed hour.

Oliver quickly came to prominence last summer as Jon Stewart’s fill-in host on The Daily Show while he took leave to make a movie. As it turns out, Comedy Central almost assuredly would have offered him Stephen Colbert’s post-Daily Show slot had the network known he’d be leaving to become David Letterman’s successor sometime next year.

But HBO struck while the Oliver iron was red hot. So for now, his half-hour Last Week Tonight will be seen just once a week, on Sundays (11 p.m. ET).

Oliver launched right into the prime targets at hand -- old-line bigots Donald Sterling and Cliven Bundy. “It turned out to be a rough week for unrepentant racists and recording devices,” he said deftly.

Those were the easy ones. But Oliver set himself apart with an ingenious and lengthy look at the election in India, whose 814 million eligible voters are in the process of picking a new prime minister. The two frontrunners currently are telegenic young Rahul Gandhi and elderly Narenda Modi, with the latter considered the favorite, Oliver said. Still, American TV newscasts remain more interested in handicapping the 2016 presidential election, Oliver scolded.

“If this story isn’t worth covering, then nothing is worth covering,” he said of India’s election, which has all of the juicy ingredients that usually interest U.S. cable news networks. Instead, they’ve devoted more attention of late to a “Leopard on the Loose” in India.

Oliver also had a fine time with a very funny segment blasting products that make phony claims about improving health, prolonging life, etc. He reached a crescendo with, “F--- you,” after viewers were treated to an ad for Frosted Pop Tarts.

The show also included a taped faux salute to the NFL as “Workplace of the Week” and Oliver’s previous interview with accommodating former National Security Agency head Keith Alexander.

The host then zoomed right out of there, thanking those involved with the show before it instantly vanished.

Last Week Tonight probably needs to towel off a bit and present a more relaxed half-hour next Sunday. The premiere outing nonetheless showed considerable ingenuity and a willingness to take on topics that haven’t already been parodied to death. India’s elections, for one. That was a brilliant segment, and more than enough to elevate the first edition of a show that doesn’t have to be in quite such a rush.

Enjoy yourself a little more, John Oliver. Take your foot off the accelerator and stop speeding.

GRADE: A-minus
 
 
 
 
 
Leave a Comment: (No HTML, 1000 chars max)
 
 Name (required)
 
 Email (required) (will not be published)
 
PWGNV
Type in the verification word shown on the image.
 
 
 Page: 1 of 1  | Go to page: 
2 Comments
 
 
I believe he has talent but the question if he is skilled enough to deliver news in a lively manner is still to be answered.
May 4, 2014   |  Reply
 
 
Mac
Oliver in Colbert's slot?I would think Comedy Central would be thinking this would come off as Daily Show Part Deaux.Colbert was aimed at the Fox crazed opinionists,especially O'Reilly(but Hannity is increasingly the easy target).Maybe an unhinged female to take on the Meygyns,maybe a three person panel to skewer Fox & Friends,Redeye or The Five,though Chelsea Handler can't be part of this because doesn't have the credibility to tackle real news.
Apr 29, 2014   |  Reply
 
 
 
 Page: 1 of 1  | Go to page: