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Last Week Tonight is more than The Daily Show with John Oliver · A.V. Club

Last Week Tonight is more than The Daily Show with John Oliver TV Review The A V Club

Multi-discipline, too: In calling out the factual inaccuracy in a CNN India headline, Oliver notes that the “billion votes” cited in a network graphic is off “by the population of Brazil.” It’s a wickedly specific burn, and one that comes with a complementary geography lesson. While Stewart and Colbert have long been credited with keeping their primarily young audiences informed, Oliver looks to be the guy who can educate them, too. In questioning the official story on surveillance abuse from the show’s first guest, former National Security Agency director Keith Alexander, the host doesn’t indulge in any “gotcha” tactics—he merely presents the viewer with contradictory findings from other sources. And then he moves on to suggesting opportunities for rebranding the NSA (like renaming the agency after an adorable cat), because this is first and foremost a comedy show.


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The freedoms of premium cable allow Oliver to get a little weirder than his basic-cable counterparts—and a lot more biting. There’s a cheap buzz in hearing the phrase “fucking ukulele” in the rise-and-fall of the host’s British accent, but the best indication that Oliver is no longer on TV—he’s on HBO—is a brutal interstitial takedown of employment practices within the National Football League. 

The premiere episode of Last Week Tonight is a smorgasbord of subjects Oliver wouldn’t (and possibly couldn’t) tackle on another network. It’s an additional, prankster’s edge that occasionally goes missing onThe Daily Show, the kind that might disappear completely with The Colbert Report in 2015. By way of inviting viewers deeper into the show’s world, Oliver ends a segment on misleading food labels by directing the audience to Last Week Tonight’s social-media outlets, where they can find extra-misleading labels suitable for affixing to real products in real grocery stores*. Culture-jamming might be passé, but this is still a bold opening move from a television series.

(* "Arguably Preferable to Hunger" is my favorite alternative label.)

It does seem like television needs more of this kind of subversion, with Colbert Report going away.

Have you watched it yet?

No, has it started yet? I need to watch it.

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